Pic courtesy- The Hindu
Muslim Civil Society
Muslim Civil Society Statement on the continued harassment of Ms. Sharmila Seyyid and her family.

We, the undersigned would like to express our extreme distress and dismay at the incidents of harassment against Ms. Sharmila Seyyid and her family through a variety of means including social media.

In November 2012, the Tamil Radio Service of the BBC interviewed Ms. Sharmila Seyyid, a journalist and social worker from the Eastern Province. In response to a question from the BBC reporter, Ms. Seyyid had voiced the opinion that sex workers may be better protected if prostitution was legalized. This drew a significant backlash from a section of the Muslim community in the area and elsewhere prompting her to issue a clarification, in which she emphasized that she was “…only highlighting a social reality and did not intend to defy Islamic tenets”. She also expressed “regret if she had unwittingly hurt anyone’s sentiments”.

The harassment and intimidation that began in the aftermath of the 2012 interview has resulted in her having to leave the country, and continues to this day, impacting other family members as well. An article reproduced in both the Sunday Observer and the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka on the 19th of April 2015 recorded several more recent truly horrifying actions against her on the internet and also recorded renewed calls by some to condemn her for insulting and offending Islamic teachings.

While we acknowledge that prostitution is prohibited in Islam (as in many other religions), we nevertheless uphold that Ms. Seyyid is within her rights and freedoms to express her personal views; and condemn all forms of harassment, intimidation and hatred by vigilante groups and individuals that are justified based on claims to the above. While we acknowledge and respect that feelings may have been hurt and sensibilities offended, we also categorically state that defaming, harassing and inciting violence against a person for holding a different opinion, in this case a woman, is unacceptable and not within the spirit of the faith, and can also be deemed a contravention of the law. If people feel themselves to have been wronged, due process should be followed to seek redress.

This event highlights the critical need within the Muslim community, and also in the country at large, for developing processes to respond to critical issues, not through vilification, harassment or violence but through a process of dialogue that is in keeping with the law and norms of a democratic society and respectful of different faiths and ethics.
We urge the authorities to ensure that a thorough and fair investigation is conducted with regard to the complaints received by the aggrieved parties and hold those responsible for misconduct accountable. We also request that community religious leaders such as the Jamiathul Ulema take steps to halt the targeting of fellow Muslims based on spurious religious justifications. We also call upon all community leaders and civil society actors of the Muslim community to continue to play an active role in upholding the rights of every citizen.
1. Sharm Aboosally

  1. Azra Abdul Cader

  2. Fathima Razik Cader

  3. Zahabia Adamaly

  4. Hilmy Ahamed

  5. Silma Ahamed

  6. Ferial Ashraff

  7. Abdul Halik Azeez

  8. Fathima Hasanah Cegu Isadeen -Lawyer

  9. Ameer Faaiz

  10. M.B.M.Fairooz- Editor, Vidivelli Newspaper

  11. Mushtaq Fuad

  12. Anberiya Hanifa

  13. Dr. Farzana Haniffa

  14. Faiza Haniffa

  15. Prof. Shahul. H. Hasbullah

  16. Ali Hassan

  17. Shafinaz Hassendeen

  18. Zeenath Hidaya

  19. M.H. Mohamed Hisham

  20. Ameena Hussein

  21. Hafsa Husain

  22. M.C.M. Iqbal

  23. Hana Ibrahim

  24. Zainab Ibrahim

  25. Prof. Qadri Ismail

  26. Nisreen Jafferjee

  27. Riyaz Jafferjee

  28. Zaffar Jeevunjee

  29. Hamthun Jumana – Mullaitheevu Women Rehabilitation and Development Federation

  30. M.S.L. Madani

  31. Mohamad Mahuruf

  32. Jensila Majeed – Women’s Action Network

  33. Juwairiya Mohideen – Muslim Women Development Trust

  34. Mr. M.L. Buhary Mohamed – Eastern Social Development Foundation

  35. Zamruth Jahan Mufazlin – Lawyer

  36. Mohamed S.R. Nisthar

  37. Feroze Nihar

  38. Prof. M. A. Nuhman

  39. Nuzreth Rasheed

  40. M. M. Rahman

  41. Rajabdeen Rashika – MWRDF

  42. Prof. Louiqa Raschid

  43. Dr. Romola Rasool

  44. A.S. Mohamed Rayees

  45. Amjad Saleem.

  46. Shreen Saroor – Mannar Women’s Development Federation

  47. Ermiza Tegal

  48. Minna Thahir

  49. S.M.M. Yaseen

  50. Hanif Yusoof

  51. Hela Mohammed Zakariya – Women’s Action Network

  52. Faizun Zackariya – Citizens’ Voice for Justice and Peace.

  53. A.J.M. Zaneer

  54. Y.L.M. Zawahir

  55. Dr. L. M. Zubair – University of Peradeniya