04/24/2020, 14.23
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Sri Lankan Muslim leaders have an important role to play against extremism

by Melani Manel Perera

A year after the Easter Sunday attacks, a Muslim theologian speaks about the right attitude taken by Catholics, who are waiting for the end of the legal investigations, as well as of the need to defend Islamic youth from extremism.

Colombo (Asia News) – A year after terrorist attacks left more than 250 people dead on Easter Sunday, Moulavi Laffir Madani, 58, a teacher of Islamic theology in Colombo, president of the Hashimi Foundation and treasurer of the Foundation for inter-religious peace, spoke to AsiaNews.

“The leadership of the Muslim community has a big role to play in sincerely eliminating extremism,” he said. Our time needs “us to unite to fight all forms of racism, violence, and poverty and create a new pattern of thinking.”

After one year, how do you feel about the tragedy of the Easter Sunday attacks?

It is not easy to recover from the shock resulting from the suicide attacks on churches and hotels when innocent Christians were piously marking Easter Sunday. The anger, pain, distress and disappointment will continue to echo in our hearts and minds, and not only because we tragically lost family and friends.

A close friend’s son, his wife and children lost their lives among hundreds of others in the Katuvapitiya church while attending the Mass for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What is your impression of the Christian leadership handling this horrific situation?

We have to appreciate the leadership of the Catholic community in Sri Lanka for its extraordinary vision, courage and action to manage the crisis, which otherwise might have ended in a difficult national crisis.

The cardinal with the support of the bishops and other religious leaders reached out to each victim’s family, looking after their needs and healing their wounds. They centralised donations, coordinated with the relevant government and non-governmental bodies, and planned programmes and action plans in order to prioritise needs.

There were medical needs; major surgeries to be done; children and widows to look after. They coordinated with the laity to provide every necessity to everyone, including doctors and nurses, livelihood and counselling, rebuilding churches and properties. Religious leaders from other faiths also supported this action. Their sincere efforts are commendable and appreciated by everyone.

Planning and leading the first commemoration too were exemplary; an inclusive initiative that reaffirms the need to find the perpetrators and mete out justice.

What is your impression of how society saw the matter?

Since the suicide attacks were carried out by an extremist group of young Muslims, the entire Muslim community has faced criticism and the wrath from ordinary folks that later turned into violent reaction by some people against Muslim lives and property.

Although inquiries into the incident were initiated to find out the true forces behind these attacks, their goals and reasons, repeated warnings from the intelligence services were ignored and nothing productive came from them.

How do you see the current legal process over what happened?

Now, the government has launched a new series of investigations and started arresting some people allegedly for having some links with suicide bombers. This has kindled fresh hope that justice will prevail in the near future. It is our fervent hope that the inquiries will take the right course without political manipulation and instigation of hatred against a particular group of people, while a general election will be held very soon, on June 20.

What would be your response to the word "extremism"?

Extremism in any form should be wiped out. It is extremism that led people to interpret the religious texts according to the whims of the violent perpetrators of crimes that end up damaging Buddha statues, bombing churches and killing innocent human beings. The raw material of extremism is still active in society and young people must be protected from being infected by extremist ideologies. The leadership of the Muslim community has a big role to play in sincerely eliminating extremism.

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