PREFACE

It is with great pleasure and grateful thanks that I accept the kind invitation of Ali Azeez to write the Preface to Senator A. M. A. Azeez’s THE WEST REAPPRAISED. It is a book that should have been reprinted many times over for many reasons. First and foremost, the mature insightful treatment of thumb-nail biographies and succinct accounts of such an array of men, events and movements in recent history has not been attempted by anyone yet. As a historian and eminent public figure, whose academic excellence had been further enhanced by practical experience as a Civil Servant, educator, political activist, legislator, prolific writer and orator, Senator Azeez had been invited to speak and write on the persons and subjects covered in this volume. Whenever such an opportunity arose, he undertook sustained and meticulous research which investigated deeply how each person or event contributed directly or indirectly to the sociopolitical and cultural changes that modern Sri Lanka was going through. The result was remarkable. Each essay or speech was an intellectual treat.

 I recall how the publication of the book came about as I had a modest role to play in it. Senator Azeez and I were brought together during the early days of the 1960s due to my involvement in the nationalization of the Assisted Schools and the creation of Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Universities. He was the Principal of Zahira College at that time.

 On the instructions of the then Minister of Education, Mr. Badiudin Mahmud, I had to seek Senator Azeez’s advice and cooperation, which necessitated us to meet frequently. At the same time, he was interested in urging for a Muslim University and wished to utilize the model of Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Universities. It was in the course of such work that I suggested to him that his speeches and articles should be compiled into a publication, which I could get Saman Press in Maharagama to publish. He had published a book in Tamil on “Islam in Ceylon.” It required much persuasion as he was a perfectionist and was reluctant to publish in English unless he had time for more rigid research and careful writing. I am glad that after several long discussions, he agreed because he would never have found any free time in his extremely busy life for the kind of intellectual engagement that he wished for.

 THE WEST REAPPRAISED, when presented in draft form to the then Chief Justice, Mr. Hema Basnayake, for a Preface, was most enthusiastically praised by him. He said, “The essays indicate how much the spirit that animates the great men, whose lives he [Senator Azeez] has sketched, has influenced the author. He has done a great service capturing that spirit and preserving it, as those spiritual values, which we of the East have fostered for centuries, are fast declining. Works such as this will, in a measure, help to arrest that decline.”

 The book when published was widely read, reviewed and discussed. What was readily highlighted by practically all its readers and reviewers was its most welcome pluralistic coverage. The Buddhists found in essays on the Buddha Jayanthi, Anagarika Dharmapala, Dr. W. A de Silva and Vidyalankara university how a Muslim leader with a vision empathized with them in their efforts to attain their national and spiritual aspirations. Hindus discovered similarly in the essays on Arumuga Navalar, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi Senator Azeez’ capacity to appreciate and admire these leaders of thought and action. It is through his essays on Quaid Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah, Arabi Pasha, Allama Iqbal, M. C. Siddi Lebbe and Pan Islam that he informed effectively the Muslin contribution to the emerging changes in the Indian subcontinent. How very skillfully he displayed fairness and impartiality of treatment which alone make his presentations extremely valuable.

 I also remember the long hours he utilized to evolve a common theme under which he could present these essays. He did it with a masterful Introduction in which he rationalized that the greatness of all national leaders that he dealt with was that individually and collectively they reacted to and re-appraised the Western sociopolitical and cultural values and ideas which had an overpowering impact on the lives and times of their period. Each one was a path-finder for his people and how all of them together changed the world is what comes out of this wonderful collection of evaluatory essays by a man of great talent.

 Ananda W. P. Guruge B. A. (Hons), Ph. D., D. Litt

Dean Emeritus of Academic affairs and Professor Buddhist Studies,
University of the West, California, USA;
Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, France and USA and
Senior Special Advisor to the Director General of UNESCO; and
Former Officer of the Ceylon Civil Service.
 
8351 Snowbird Drive,
Huntington Beach, CA 92646, USA
August 12, 2011

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