Abdul Rahman Mohamed Faiz, General Secretary of the All Ceylon Thawheed Jama'ath has written to the Sunday Times about references to his organisation in our recent issues.
In a letter dated July 28, he says the references in our front page report of July 26 that devotees of Masjidur Rahman (belonging to the Thawheed Jama'ath) had attacked the Bukhari Mosque in Beruwala is wrong. "We have been shown as the offender by your news story while we are actually the victims," he says. He has agreed to the non-publication of this letter in full in view of space constraints.
However, he has asked that the Sunday Times publishes his letter dated August 3 in respect of our front page lead story headlined "Police search for Islamic preacher." This is what the letter says:
"We refer to the headline news published in your newspaper on August 2, 2009 under the headline 'Police search for Islamic preacher." Some contents of the news story are totally false and misleading as the preacher referred -- Kovai Ayoob -- has no connection whatsoever with the incident at Beruwala which took place on July 24, 2009. He never addressed any gatherings there and was never fanning religious hatred as mentioned in your news story. In fact Kovai Ayoob has come to Sri Lanka earlier too and has during all occasions preached only Islamic principles regarding which no one has complained to any authorities.
"Your wordings in the midst of the story ‘The Thawheed group which has increased its numbers and influence.....’ is also misleading and misinforming because Thawheed is a part and parcel of Islamic faith and Muslim community. All Muslims should necessarily belong to Thawheed because the term in Arabic refers to "monotheism" or unity of God which is the basic of Islamic faith.
"In addition the Thawheed movement is an organisation engaged in true Islamic preaching that importantly emphasises not to associate partners with Allah Almighty. It never preaches against giving alms to poor or feeding them because these are religious necessities.
"We are also concerned about some facts in the mid of your news story but we do not want to pen a lengthy explanation at this time. Given the above facts please be good enough to publish a correction in your newspaper since we are being inflicted with damages to lives and properties by goons and the media have now caused damage to our image too. We do hope that your esteemed newspaper which has kept up the ethics of journalism will carry out a correction and solace us, the voiceless voice too heard."
Note by the News Editor:
In respect of Mr. Faiz's letter of July 28 which claimed erroneously that Masjidur Rahman mosque was attacked, the Sunday Times regrets the error. This was in fact corrected in the subsequent issue (August 2) when a detailed account of the incident, the attack on Masjidur Rahman mosque was reported by the Insight team.
As for his letter of August 3, only a few elements require a response. They are:
The Sunday Times made no reference to preacher Kovai Ayyoob having any connection with the July 24 incident in Beruwala. Nor did we say that he addressed religious gatherings or fanned religious hatred.
However, the Sunday Times did report that the search for Kovai Ayyoob came after "a complaint from the Religious Affairs Ministry that he was fanning religious hatred among Muslims" to the Controller of Immigration. Indeed, the Controller acted on this complaint when he ordered the Police to hunt him down for deportation.
Preacher Ayyoob in fact confirmed this fact when he had to broadcast a sermon through a telephone to devotees of a mosque in Kattankudy. He did not make his appearance for fear of arrest and that was explained by the mosque authorities. Therefore, it is an issue Mr. Faiz's organisation has to raise with the Religious Affairs Ministry if indeed his claims are correct.
With regard to the claim that the wording "The Thawheed group which has increased its numbers and influence......" is misleading and misinforming, we say that until the incidents, the role of the Thawheed group was relatively unknown in Sri Lanka. The Sunday Times is aware that both the Police and State intelligence arms are concerned about both the "growth and influence" of the group.
There is, however, no dispute that they belong to the Islamic faith. But the incidents in Beruwala have made it amply clear sections of the Muslim community are not in favour of Mr. Faiz’s interpretation of "Monotheism."
So have some Muslims in Kattankudy.