May 30, 2018

Prostituting Iftar For Political Gain


 Ameer Ali 
Dr. Ameer Ali
Iftar, the Muslim tradition of breaking the fast during Ramadhan comes from the Arabic word fatoor meaning breakfast. It is a solemn occasion for the devotees who fast as required by their creator and end the fast also as required by the same. The occasion is concluded by performing the evening obligatory or maghrib prayer. 
It was some time last year that I published a piece in the Colombo Telegraph titled, “Ostentatious Iftars and Obscene Poverty”. I was critical of holding lavish iftar parties held in Five Star Hotels organised by publicity seeking individuals and institutions, and inviting politicians and diplomats, while constituencies of poverty remains the most obnoxious feature of the Muslim community. One only has to go to the mosques during the fasting month to witness the crowd of beggars gathering there for handouts. The month of Ramadhan is notable for charity and charitable activities.
Iftar is neither a religious ritual nor an elaborate custom but a normal daily feature of fasting. Simplicity is Islam’s requirement in all its religious observations. The Holy Quran warns the Muslims of “those who want to be seen” (chapter 107, verse 6) and Islam is against showiness. Muslims should remember that it was their showiness in practising their religion, which in the past had contributed mostly to Buddhist-Muslim tensions in the country. 
One of the most pleasing traditions of iftar practised for a long time in Sri Lanka is the distribution of kanchi or rice porridge at mosques, which for many poor Muslim families constituted part of their dinner. With a couple of dates, preferably and not compulsorily, that kanchi was almost a lifesaver to the poor. If the iftar party organisers would spend their money in distributing more kanchi even to non-Muslim poor families in this month they would be earning more reward from their creator.  The kanchi will bring communities together. I remember in the 1970s when there was food shortage in the country a number of estate worker families depended entirely on the Ramadhan kanchi for survival during those thirty days.           

In this context, it is shocking to read an elaborate advertisement from Beruwela, announcing iftar parties for three days, for which the chief guests would be the political stalwarts of the Rajapaksa family. There is nothing wrong in hosting them for any celebration organised by Muslims. Having betrayed by the MS-RW government, most Muslims are quite willing to fall back on MR for solution to their problems. Whether changing pillows to cure headache is another question.  However, what is inappropriate is to prostitute an ordinary religious tradition to gain political favour. It is better to invite them rather to the festival dinner or lunch than to the solemn iftar. Stop prostituting religion for political gain. Contrast this to what Bosath Tharuna Ekathuwa has done in a Dansala in Maradana to mark the Poson Full Moon Poya, where the Sinhalese youth has served iftar breakfast to Muslims. While the event in Beruwela is for seeking political favour that in Maradana is to unite communities. Let Muslim leaders stop prostituting religion for political gains.        
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