On his recent visit to Belgium, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met with officials from the European Union and European Parliament. The purpose of these meeting was to discuss the GSP Plus concession for Sri Lanka.
Ironically one of the main conditions put forward by the European Union, which was again confirmed by the EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka, to reinstate the GST Plus is the amendment of the Muslim personal law.
Following this, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has appointed a ministerial sub-committee under the leadership of the Justice minister Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to look into this issue. This sudden rush towards this amendment has been viewed with scepticism by many in the society, and the call to immediately stop this reformation initiative can be heard from many within the community. From statements from All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama and the National Shura Council condemning this move, to an aggressive protest by SLTJ, the aspiration of the Muslim community has been made clear to the Government of Sri Lanka.
Similarly, various articles opinion pieces are flooding the mainstream and social media from seasoned journalists and activists in our community.
This is the backdrop of this article which is aiming to clarify the root cause of this problem, and in a concise manner and provide direction to the Muslim community on how we should approach and deal with this issue.
If we pay close attention to the recent trends in the country, we will not fail to notice the anti-Islamic sentiments that are brewing in the land, where basic matters like spiritual worship to food and clothing of Muslims is under the spotlight. We live in a time where the discussion on Halal food, animal sacrifices (Kurbani), building / extending masajid or indeed the burkha – everything that Muslims are holding on to from their religion is viewed in a derisory manner. This new issue, the issue of the Personal law of Muslims is nothing but a new addition to this growing list of things targeting the Muslims and their adherence to Islam.
The Personal law of Muslim is similar in nature to the personal law and rights given to other communities in the Island, where an individual has been given the concession to deal with issues arising in their personal matters in line with their religious teaching or belief system. This concession does not in any shape or form influence or undermine the law of the land, be it in social, political and economical spheres. So in an era where such basic rights of individuals are being violated, especially with foreign influence, it will increasingly become difficult for us to even practice the basic aspects of our religion. As a community we need to realise this fact and be not surprised as in today’s political world order such realisations have become the norm.
With the fall of Soviet Union, the west sees Islam and the global Muslim ummah as the only threat to its Capitalistic, secular liberal way of life; so separating this ummah from its Islamic thoughts and identify, and assimilating Muslims voluntary or forcefully to their way of life, has been in the forefront of their agenda. Getting Muslims to submit to the principal and order set by them is considered to be a vital issue for them. Nowadays we can understand why Muslims are being specifically targeted when we realise that all other cultures and religions have already succumbed to this pressure and has adopted these secular liberal values.
As a proponent of capitalist ideology, western nations and European Union will not move an iota unless the issue is linked to their strategic or vital interest– this is well known to anyone who understands the capitalistic ideology. Subjugating the third world countries and using its institutions such as World Bank, IMF and others NGO to force them to serve their foreign policies is not a secret. Accordingly, today, the western world is looking for Sri Lanka to play its role in their anti-Islamic campaign, and is using GSP Plus as a tool to achieve this. Sri Lanka will not have any option other than to succumb to this pressure. We as a community have to clearly understand that apart from perhaps the worry of losing the Muslim vote, no government in Sri Lanka will have any genuine concern on this issue.
How should we deal with this?
First and foremost, we should not become the scapegoat to the agenda of the west and the stance the Sri Lankan Government is bound to take in line with it. We should from the onset reject any attempt to secularise Muslim community by diluting its culture and identify and treading the path of total assimilation, in the way west want us to.
Today, the sad reality is such that like any other country, including Muslim majorly countries, the Muslims in Sri Lanka are already ruled by secular laws. The only respite we have is in the issue of personal matters such as nikah, thalaq, and Inheritance – these are the only matters where we have the ability to settle in accordance with the sharia. We should remember that our forefathers have protected this for generation as they saw it as a vital component for us to protect the identity of the Muslims on the island. Any attempt to reform this as per the like and dislikes of others is an attempt to further distance the Muslims from the Sharia – so we should vehemently reject any such calls.
Further, it is also equally important that we don’t fall for the trap of aiding them in their agenda without realising it. For example, in the issue of marriage the EU has demanded that the minimum age of consent for a female was to be increased to 16 years from the current 12 years. Let us explore how we should approach this issue so that we don’t involuntarily fall into the trap of aiding them in their quest to secularise the Muslim population in Sri Lanka.
There are two prominent views regarding this within our society. One being the argument that we should not change the Muslim personal law on the request of a foreign entity and the second being the question on why there is a pressing need for the government to appoint a new ministerial committee to deal with this issue despite already having a committee in place for the last 7 years led by High Court Judge Saleem Marsoof.
Although there is no disagreement that this reformation should not be done because of foreign intervention, the issue here is that if we are not careful we will end up doing to ourselves what the west is trying to achieve regarding this issue. Similarly, what is more important is not the argument on who should lead on this discourse; rather our focus should be on how both these committees will approach this issue.
Allah (SWT) has not set an age limit for women in the Sharia – be the minimum age limit or the maximum age limit. Allah SWT has given that right to the individual and their guardian, no other person has any rights to interfere with that.
We are aware of the strong words of the old lady when Umar (RA) tried to put a limit on the Mahr considering the benefit it will bring to the society. She severely accounted Umar (RA) and said “Mahr is a right that has been given to us by Allah (SWT) and the Khalifah has no rights to put a limit upon it.” The age limit issue is also similar to this in the view point of the Sharah, and we have to learn a lesson from this incident.
So any attempt to put an age limit for marriage or taking that right from the individuals concerned is tantamount to giving prominence to man’s mind over the sharia even if it was done in the name of Islam and Sharia. Muslims should in principal reject any such attempts. For if they agree to accept any of the recommendation, be it from the EU, from the committee led by judge Saleem Marsoof, or from the new ministerial sub-committee and regardless of the outcome of the proposal, in essence will mean that Muslims are distancing themselves from the Sharia and are involuntarily falling into the agenda of the European Union.
The Sharia that was sent to us by the creator of the heavens and the earth is beyond the capacity of human’s limited mind, so naturally He SWT gives the most optimal solutions to man’s every problems. In some cases our limited mind can comprehend the wisdom behind the law and in other cases we may not, however regardless, we have to accept his solution wholeheartedly. This is the sign of true Imaan. We may see in our society instances where women face challenges in life due to marriage at a young age. The Sharia has nothing to do with this. Instead it is the decision of her family and the reality of the society she lives in, including other external factors that are the reasons for her facing such ordeal. This does not warrant any change to the position held by the Sharia.
The west is in the forefront in promoting the idea that the Sharia is not capable of solving the problems that modern man faces. They are attempting to distance the ummah from Islam and reduce her confidence in Islam. Unless we understand this clearly we are in danger of following an Islam that is palatable to the west, which is restricted to only some ritual worships such as our prayers and fasting and leading us to be like any other religion, adopting the secular way of life – using man made solutions, namely the capitalistic viewpoint about life. In these challenging times we need to not only hold firm on to Islam but use it as an opportunity to stand up for the truth and expose the fallacy of the western democracy, its values and its ideals that are being forced upon us.
It is indeed a joke to even think that the EU is truly concerned about the well being of the Muslim women in Sri Lanka. Their true nature becomes apparent if we look at their track record on how women are treated in their own society. Women, who should be treated as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters are objectified as an advertisement tool, as a commodity to satisfy man’s sexual instinct being degraded through pornography, gentlemen’s clubs and prostitution. How can we accept solutions from the mind of men who deny the truth and fight against it? Moreover, what rights do they have to advise others regarding the treatment of women? What audacity does the west have to advise other nations on the rights of women when their own societies are built upon false and dangerous values such as liberalism and freedom, while the atrocities against women are rampaging without control, and their family structures have completely and irreversible collapsed.
In fact the problem is much deeper than this. In the recent years the endemic nature of child abuse in Europe, especially in British establishments has been brought to light. Are we expecting a viable solution from a civilisation that cannot even protect its vulnerable children in its schools, hospitals, and churches?
Even in Sri Lanka the main reason for the recent trend in the increase of violation against women is none other than an outcome of adopting western culture. Cases of rape of own children, rape and killing of under aged girls etc. are all an outcome of abandoning own cultures, social customs and morals in favour of western ideals.
In contrast, Islam does not recognise false values such as “liberalism” and so-called “freedom” promoted by the western capitalistic ideology. It aims to protect the honour and dignity the family unit and promotes mutual respect between men and women. In an Islamic society, women are not objectified for the pleasure of others. Instead, it values them as human beings and their intelligence. Islam gave political, economical, and social rights to women long before the women in the west even dreamed about fighting for it. The entire society is constructed on the basis that man and women are equal slaves of Allah SWT.
If the western world and the other civilisation are to cure the social malaise in their societies, they have no option other than to adopt the Islamic values and sharia, not to undermine it. Sri Lanka is no exception to this.
We request that the following be considered in the discussion regarding the Muslim personal law in Sri Lanka:
1. No non-Muslims or anyone without Sharia knowledge should be allowed to intervene in this discourse.
2. As in this case, if this issue is raised for a political reason by internal or external political forces, Muslims should unite and speak out against it and expose its reality.
3. If we, especially the leaders and scholars (ulama) in the society are succumbing to the pressure of others and twisting and bending the Sharia to please others, we should remind them to fear Allah (SWT) and the day of recording.
4. We should remember that this is part of the agenda of the west to secularise the Muslims around the globe.
5. The western values and slogans such as Liberalism, freedom, human rights, women rights, gender equality etc. are all incapable of solving the problems mankind faces. We should question any solutions that are coming from such values.
6. We need to accept the fact that the current Muslim personal law is deficient in its current form, and any attempt to reform it should be to bring it more closer to the Sharia, and not away from it.
7. We have the duty and the responsibility to intellectually present, first and foremost to the Muslims and to the wider society that only the Islamic ideology and its solutions can truly liberate the mankind from the misery they face today be it in the west or in the east, alike.
8. Finally, only the full implantation of the laws revealed by the creator Allah (SWT) can truly solve this issue and the countless others faces by the Muslim ummah today. Since this can only be achieved by the re-establishment of the rightly guided Khalilah, we as a community should learn from such incidents and work towards this permanent solution at all levels in the society.