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‘Lankan Muslims must adopt Arabic’

[TamilNet, Sunday, 6 March 2011 10:39 No Comment]

Muslims in Sri Lanka have been asked to adopt Arabic as their ‘home language’ by a leading Sri Lankan Muslim researcher and rights activist and the founder-leader of the Muslim Rights Organisation (MRO) M I M Mohideen on Saturday.

"This will enable them to be more Islamic. It will forge unity among Muslims who are currently divided by language. And it will help Muslims make the best of the economic opportunities in West Asian countries," Mohideen told Express.

While acknowledging that over the centuries, most Sri Lankan Muslims had adopted Tamil as their mother tongue, right activist Mohideen pointed out that the community included Malays who spoke Malay at home; Bohras who spoke Gujarati; and Memons who spoke Kutchi or Urdu.

"More recently, a growing number of wealthy Muslims of Colombo have adopted English as their home language. Muslims who are in Sinhalese medium schools have adopted Sinhalese as their language," he observed.

"Therefore, the linguistically divided Muslims will have to be united, and the only language which can unite them, in a meaningful way, is Arabic, the language of the Quran," Mohideen argued.

SITUATION RIPE FOR CHANGE: Mohideen felt that there should be no difficulty in making the change over to Arabic.

" The ulama are for it. Youngsters who go for employment in the Arab world see the need for it. And finally, Arabic is an internationally recognised language," he said.

The case for adopting Arabic as the language of Muslims is rooted in history, religious conviction and cultural requirements, Mohideen said.

"Firstly, it is acknowledged by all Lankans that the Muslims came from Arabia, as the terms used to denote Muslims, namely, "Sonakan" in Tamil or "Yona Minissu" in Sinhalese, mean "coming from Arabia."

"Secondly, for all Muslims, no matter what language they speak at home, the Quran, written in Arabic, is the fountainhead of all wisdom, cultural norms and practices," he pointed out.

TAMILMUSLIM DIVIDE: Asked if this meant that he wanted Muslims to veer away from their Tamil roots, Mohideen said that while Muslims would continue to use Tamil, they could not ignore the fact that over the last few decades, Muslims and Tamils had drifted away from each other, because of the ethnic conflict in the island nation which was going on for a long time.

Tamil militants had massacred Muslims and robbed them of their lands just because they did not subscribe to separatism, he said.

He further said that the demand for a linguistic switch over was not new in the island nation.

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