Hakeem insists Muslims have not been radicalised in the East

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem insists Muslims have not been radicalised in the East.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, Hakeem said that while there are different schools of thought in Islamic philosophy it is not a case of sectarian radical groups taking root.

He was responding to the question on claims that there is rising fundamentalism in the Eastern Province, with funding from West Asian countries.

“You know, it’s very typical, this question after a lengthy interview of this nature. Not only you, several media people who have come to interview me end up asking this question. It is again a manifestation of an international mindset. But locally, I don’t see that Muslims have been radicalised to that extent so as to resort to violence. Whatever radicalisation has been happening, it is in the cultural domain — you see their dress, their attitude to observing their faith, you see a certain amount of this happening, they talk about Wahhabism, or the Salafi ideology being the cause for most of this radicalisation. Then there are various Jama’aths like Sri lanka Thawheed Jama’ath. It is not a case of sectarian radical groups coming and taking root, but these are different schools of thought in Islamic philosophy,” he said.

Hakeem says politicians like him monitor what is taking place and keep their ears to the ground and interact with all the people.

“Sometimes when it is necessary we criticise the attitude of some of these people — the way they propagate their ideology because it can give a different perception to the outsider, that this community is becoming a bit introverted, very exclusivist and reducing interaction with the rest of the community — these are frowned upon by a majority of Muslims in this country. When it comes to religious practice, whether it is in Hinduism, Christianity, or Judaism, there are different strains, different ideologies being practised by fringe groups. I don’t think we need to worry about these fringe groups as long as they don’t resort to violence as a means to propagate their culture or ideology,” he added.

Hakeem also noted that issues like women’s rights have come into focus and people tend to think Islam is very slow in embracing certain liberal values when it comes to women’s emancipation or their rights.

“They are cultural issues and those reforms will have to come from within and that is happening now. Today one of the main issues is women’s participation in the labour force. In South Asia, we are far behind compared to other countries. There are several factors contributing to it. It is because we are more protective of women. But any religious taboo against women working has over time got de-escalated so much that a large number of Muslim women are freely working. But of course, the way in which they dress or behave will be dictated by cultural norms, and that you cannot prevent. That is the right of those people to practise their own culture. That accommodation needs to be there and it should not be perceived as “the other”. (Colombo Gazette)