Address on Sunday 30th October, 1949 on the occasion of the  

inauguration of the Ceylonese Muslim Union

On this  important  occasion  when we are gathered together at the bidding of about five hundred conveners representative of all parts of the Island and all walks of life in order that we may declare in unequivocal terms our determined  opposition  to any innovation in the appellation, name or description of our Community and in order that we may inaugurate a Union for the fostering of the brotherhood that in a singular manner characterises Islam our religion, you, in your large numbers have been pleased to choose me the Chairman of this meeting which is actively concerned with an issue that vitally affects not only ourselves but also our children and their children and theirs. I am deeply grateful to you for the honour you have thus conferred upon me and the responsibility that you have placed on me. I shall endeavour to carry out my duties to the best of my ability and, I feel certain, with your fullest co-operation and encouragement. It is most appropriate and significant that we have met  together during this month of Moharram, sacred in the annals of Islamic History  when  Hazarath  Imam  Hussain,  the beloved grandson of our Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) demonstrated to the world for all times  that  death  was to be preferred to the surrender or sacrifice of any fundamental  principle,  and  that  there  are  always  ideals  animating Communities in which there can be no compromise of any kind whatever the circumstances be.

It may be asked from us, what is in a name ? And we may be told that the rose by any other name would smell as sweet. We beg to differ from this view on the important question of the appellation of our community. And the innovators themselves are of the same view that the name does matter. They too attach a special value to the descriptive title by which the Community is to be called. Otherwise they would not have taken the trouble of addressing a lengthy letter recently to the Prime Minister, nor would they have brought a resolution before the U.N.P. Conference suggesting the substitution of "Ceylon Moor" in place of "Ceylon Muslims" in Government correspondence. Any name that is given to a Community does reflect the ideals that animate that Community,  and  any  change  in the name of our Community therefore inevitably connotes a change in  the ideals of the Community. That is an aspect which cannot be over emphasized. It is clear to us that some of the innovators have not understood the far reaching implications of their demand because of the fact they are at the same time both Moors as well as Muslims, Moors by race and Muslims by religion. It is necessary for us to tell them that the census figures show that there are several Moors in Ceylon who are not Muslims. Our forefathers who were certainly Moors by race insisted upon the Community being called Mohamedan or Muslim because to them religion was always of greater importance than race. They no doubt belonged to a race but they did not believe in racialism unlike the few misguided descendants of theirs, who are making frantic efforts to persuade the Government to grant their request. It is on account of the intense love of Islam which charcterized our forefathers  that  they  refused,  deliberately  refused, to expose their children to the then prevalent proselytism despite the many material rewards which an English Education gave in those days. This love for religion and this pride in the name of Muslims are prominent in the writings of Siddi Lebbe and I.L.M.  Abdul  Azeez who were great Moors but undoubtedly greater Muslims.
The question is sometimes asked from us whether some of us are not Moors. There is some confusion displayed in this question; for race, religion, community and nationality are four different concepts. Personally I am a Ceylon Moor by race, a Muslim by religion and a Ceylonese by nationality. But what is my Community? Am I a Ceylon Muslim or a Ceylon Moor ? That is the question which is implicit in the demand of the innovators. If the answer is Ceylon Muslim, there is no place in our Community for Ceylon Moors who are not Muslims whereas there is a place in our Community for those who are Muslims though not Moors. On the other hand if the answer to the question, what is your Community, were to be Ceylon Moor there cannot be a place in that Community for Muslims who are not Moors, whereas there should be a place in the  Community  for  the  Ceylon  Moors who are not Muslims. Therefore let it be  made  clear  that the proposal of the innovators does definitely entail the  dethronement  of  Islam in  our Community, and the substitution in its place of a racial concept. There is no escape from the logic of this demand on their part however much the innovators may attempt to veil the  implications  by  appeals  to  family  feuds, party rivalries, personal jealousies or public services. As far as we are concerned we cannot allow an important  public  question  of  this  nature  to  be  dominated by either personalities or private friendships. To us the person who exploits Moorish sentiments for his personal gain is to be condemned equally as the person who exploits Muslim solidarity for a similar purpose. It is for us now to take cognisance of this novel demand put forward by the innovators and to explain its far reaching implications and its evil consequences to all concerned within and outside our Community.
On  what  grounds  is  this  innovation  in  the  appellation of our Community justified ? We are told by the protagonist that if we do not call our Community by  the  name  of Ceylon Moors we shall lose the rights and privileges attaching to Ceylon Citizenship and that our loyalty to Ceylon will be in doubt. Patriotism is not the monopoly of any single individual or any single group of persons in  this  Island  of ours and I fail to see how our patriotism gets diminished by our calling ourselves Ceylon Muslims instead of Ceylon Moors. We are also asked by this protagonist in strange contrast to the traditions of his forefathers, for the reason whatever to consent to be called Ceylon Muslims. I have never  come across a more misleading appeal in my life. Where has the Government told the advocates of the Moorish creed that citizenship rights will be taken away from us if we call ourselves Ceylon Muslims, a term that has been in use for the past several years from the time of British Occupation and even earlier, a term that has been recognised and used by both the  Donoughmore Commissioners as well  as the Soulbury Commissioners. The Citizenship Act. No. 18 of 1948 lays down clearly the qualifications necessary for a person to become entitled to the status of a Citizen of Ceylon. Anyone who peruses that Act intelligently would note that by calling ourselves Ceylon Moors instead of Ceylon Muslims we gain no advantages whatsoever. I hope the innovators are not expecting us to believe that tried Government Officials can be deceived or deluded into granting a person special favours or concessions or accepting him as a Ceylon Citizen by the mere fact  of  that person calling himself a Ceylon Moor, without furnishing the particulars that are required by the Citizenship Act. Nowhere in that Act  is  any  special place or status given to any race, religion or community. This kind of propaganda shows us clearly how the educational backwardness of  our  Community  can be exploited. We lose nothing by calling ourselves Ceylon Muslims instead of Ceylon Moors; on the other hand we gain appreciably by refusing to permit  the dethronement of religion and the introduction of recialism in our Community. The various resolutions that will be placed before you by some of our leading Muslim citizens from the important Muslim centres of the Island set out clearly the objections we have against the introduction of the term Ceylon Moor and the evil consequences following therefrom. I have no doubt that you will wholeheartedly support them.
Let us not forget that in Independent Lanka with its ideals of political unity in the  midst  of  cultural  diversity,  our  community has a special contribution  to make, and to make that contribution, is our duty and our privilege. That contribution cannot be made by us as Ceylon Moors because as Ceylon Moors we have no language of our own, no literature of our own and no ideals of our own. We can make that contribution only as Ceylon Muslims with our heritage of Islam, which has enunciated the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice and has practised a kind of brotherhood which is a model and an example to the world. With this glorious heritage of ours we can certainly help our sister Communities build a New Lanka that  can  withstand  the ills of lawlessness, materialism, and godlessness with which world is afflicted today. We shall therefore not stray from the right path and shall proudly call ourselves Ceylon Muslims now as well as in the future. Even as our fathers and forefathers were  proud to call themselves  Ceylon  Muslims  and  we  shall  with  confidence repudiate racialism in our midst and refuse to be a party to the dethronement of Religion in our Community.
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