Multifaith commemoration of the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka

On Monday 29 April 2019 Lord Sheikh, who is President of the CMF, hosted a commemoration event in the River Room in the House of Lords for the terrible terrorist attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

The event was extremely well attended by politicians, members of the armed forces, clerics, and civil society representatives. The CMF was represented by:

  • Chairman Mohammed Amin
  • Deputy Chairman Ash Zaman
  • Executive Member Lady Sheikh
  • Executive Member Tahara Amin
  • Executive Secretary Shaheen Thantrey
  • The above photograph shows Lord Sheikh in conversation with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner HE Manisha Gunasekera while people were assembling before the speeches.

    The following people spoke:

    1. Lord Sheikh
    2. H.E. Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka
    3. The Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
    4. Bishop of Westminster, Bishop John Wilson
    5. Reverend Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons
    6. Lord Dholokia, Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers
    7. The Rt Hon. the Lord Paul
    8. Venerable Seelawimala Bogoda (Buddhist Leader)
    9. Rabbi David Mason, on behalf of the Chief Rabbi
    10. Dr Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque Trust and The Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park
    11. Catherine West MP
    12. Seema Malhotra MP
    13. Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, former Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
    14. Virender Sharma MP
    15. Krishan Kant Attri Hindu Chaplain (Army)
    16. Reverend Father Sudham Perera
    17. Dr Richard Sudworth, Advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury
    18. Imam Qasim, founder and chairman of Al-Khair Foundation
    19. Afzal Khan MP, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

    Former Metropolitan Police Commander Mak Chishty acted as the MC and gave the vote of thanks to the speakers.

    Alistair Burt’s speech

    Alistair Burt’s speech was recorded by one of the audience and uploaded onto YouTube. Accordingly we have embedded it below.

    Lord Sheikh’s speech

    Lord Sheikh has given us a copy of his speech with permission to publish it here.

    Your Excellency, my Lords, Honourable Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

    At the outset, I would kindly ask you to be upstanding, to observe a minute’s silence to mark the victims of the Sri Lankan attacks.

    Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

    Our prayers and thoughts go to the relatives of the deceased persons and those who have been injured.

    May God Almighty bless the souls of the deceased and restore health to the people who have been injured.

    I am a friend of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankans.

    I have met the leadership of the country and built connections with the present and previous High Commissioners as well as the Sri Lankan diaspora in the UK.

    I was indeed devastated and very upset by the unhuman and cruel attacks on churches and hotels resulting in deaths, injuries and carnage.  

    On Easter Monday, I telephoned Her Excellency, Manisha Gunasekera and subsequently wrote to her.

    I also went to the Sri Lankan High Commission to sign the Book of Condolences.

    We must stand by our Sri Lankan friends in times of tragedy and, in fact, at all times.

    We must all totally condemn the actions of the perpetrators and what they have done should not result in any division or animosity within the communities in the UK, Sri Lanka and in fact, throughout the world.

    We must all unite and join hands to face evil and establish solidarity against bigotry, extremism and terrorism of any sort wherever it may occur.

    I understand that the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism command has sent a team of specialist officers to help with security and intelligence activities.

    I also understand that family liaison officers are in Sri Lanka to support families of British victims.

    It would seem that the perpetrators of these evil actions are Muslims who belong to a group called NTJ.

    What these people have done is totally against the principles of Islam.

    They are absolutely wrong and are misled in their beliefs and actions.

    Islam is indeed a religion of peace and does not allow any form of suicide attack or terrorist activity.

    It is written in the Holy Quran “Whoever kills an innocent person it is though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a life it is as though he has saved all mankind”.

    Unfortunately, Roman Catholic churches were targeted.

    I would like to emphasise that Muslims regard Christians as people of the book.

    The books of Allah are the Holy Quran, the Torah, the Gospel of Jesus and the Psalms of David.

    The Roman Catholics pay a great deal of reverence to Mary, Mother of Jesus.

    I would like to state that in the Holy Quran, there is a chapter titled ‘Sura Maryam’ which means ‘Chapter on Mary’.

    This chapter refers to the birth of Jesus by Maryam.

    Maryam or Mary, the mother of Jesus, is regarded by the Muslims as one of the most righteous ladies in the Islamic tradition. 

    In the Holy Quran, no other lady is mentioned more times than Maryam.

    Unfortunately, hotels were also targeted, resulting in deaths and injuries to tourists and other foreigners.

    Unfortunately, this will adversely affect tourism.

    If the perpetrators are under the fallacy that they are waging jihad when they committed these evil actions, I would stay that this is not jihad, as jihad does not mean that you kill innocent people.

    If the perpetrators were helped by Isis, then I would like to say that I am totally against what Isis say and do.

    Their evil ideology is totally against the principle of Islam.

    Isis has to a very large extent been defeated in Iraq and Syria, but we must bear in mind that their evil ideology is still prevalent, and we must combat this evil ideology whenever or wherever it manifests.

    If these acts in Sri Lanka were a revenge for the New Zealand massacre, then I believe that this was totally out of order as two wrongs do not make a right.

    I would like to emphasise that what has happened in Sri Lanka was not in my name.

    I am actively involved in promoting interfaith dialogue and fostering harmony between people.

    I am also involved in combatting radicalisation and extremism.

    I have prepared reports on these subjects and spoken at various mosques and centres.

    In fact, I was speaking last Saturday at the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque on Muslim issues.

    Dr Al Dubyan is a Director General of the Centre and he is with us today and we would ask him to say a few words later.

    I would like to add that I am working with Mak Chishty to set up an initiative to combat radicalisation and extremism worldwide.

    I would like to say that I am very concerned about the ill treatment of Christians around the world and we must take note of the review being undertaken by the Bishop of Truro and look at the support we can provide to the Christians.

    I hope that this meeting enables us to speak with one voice, to condemn and unite under one umbrella.

    We must work together to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened in Sri Lanka.

    Finally, I would like to thank you all for showing your solidarity with Sri Lanka at this meeting.

    Thank you.

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