Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
A Sri Lankan Muslim woman appeared before press with the leader of anti-Muslim Sinhala Buddhist nationalist political movement Bodu Bala Sena, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero and accused Muslim clerics against harassing her and her family because of her marriage with a Sinhalese man.
The monk may be manipulating the woman for his anti-Muslim racist campaign but the story of the woman needs careful attention of the authorities.
Men and women of an entire village mobilized by the village mosques severely manhandled the family with the aim of punishing her for her ‘offence’ of marrying a Sinhalese. The clerics in the mosque of the village have apparently imposed ‘punishment’ against the family but the practice is completely illegal and no religious authority has such corrective powers under the law of the country. However, the victim complains that she was harassed before police that remained inactive and appeared to be supportive of the men who were discriminating her. The complaints she lodged had fallen on deaf ears.
The woman is Abdul Hassan Fatima Haifa of Atulugama, a Muslim majority locality in the Sinhala Buddhist electorate of Bandaragama. She married a Sinhala man in 2008 and has two children. She was forced by the neighbours to divorce, to convert the man to her religion or to leave the village.
This incident is one of many such unreported harassment unleashed by Muslim clerics as a part of Sharia law practiced privately among the Muslim communities in Sri Lanka. This kind of incidents are a clear violation of human rights endured by the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Such cruelty is normally not unleashed by the other religious communities in the country against the conversions or inter-religious marriages. A large number of majority Sinhala community women as well as Tamil women have married Muslim men without any sort of punitive actions from their communities or religions.
This is not the first such incident. In one night in August 2010, the Moulavi of the mosque in Mudunduwa village of Kurunegala district summoned the men in the village to ‘punish’ a woman for committing disgrace to the village. She was held down and beaten by about 100 men with coconut fronds before her husband. She bled continuously and was treated by the hospital in Mawathagama. Her husband complained to Mawathagama and Gokarella police stations for no avail.
Many such incidents have gone unreported in the country, sources say. Police as well as the Muslim intelligentsia must act wisely and diligently to curtail recurrence of such practices in the multi ethnic nation that is crying for reconciliation after recent rise of violence from Muslim terrorists and the backlash against the Muslims by the Sinhala Buddhist and Catholic extremists.