Sri Lanka blasts: Muslims are faced with presumed guilt and criminality, says Amara Majeed

The Sri Lankan government has been slammed for releasing a photo of American Muslim activist and author Amara Majeed and claiming that she is an ISIS terrorist involved in the Easter Sunday attacks. The events unfolded after photos of six suspects were released by Sri Lanka to seek help from locals. Amara’s photo was circulated to claim that she was a terrorist named Abdul Cader Fathima Qadiya. Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had released the photos. They later clarified that Amara’s photo was incorrectly used by the department to identify Qadiya. They have acknowledged that it was a mistake and apologised to Amara. Amara Majeed is a Muslim activist and author who wrote a book, titled The Foreigners, to combat stereotypes about Islam.

Here the full transcript of Amara Majeed’s press conference on Friday

My name is Amara Majeed (spelled). 

As part of the Sri Lankan diaspora in the United States, there is something quite remarkable about the unexplainable feeling of serenity and awe my heart feels when my eyes take in the majestic slopes of the mountains of Kandy, when my skin feels the pitter patter of the rain amongst the tea plantations of Nuwra Eliya. This is the site of my most profound childhood memories, the evolution of my personhood, and of course, my family. 

On the morning of April 25th , in the midst of finals season, I woke up in my dorm room to 35 missed calls, all frantically informing me that I had been falsely identified as one of the terrorists involved in the recent Easter attacks in my beloved motherland, Sri Lanka. The pain that the families of these victims must be going through is unimaginable and my family and I offer our humble condolences and love. The common way of greeting in Sri Lanka is “Ayubowan,” which is actually a wish for the recipient to have a long life. It is saddening that we are in fact speaking about lives that were shortened in the most horrific of ways. Your Sri Lankan-American sister sends her love to your families and communities. 

There are no words to describe the pain of being associated with such heinous attacks on my own native homeland and people. The pictures and posts falsely implicating me have compromised my family’s peace of mind and endangered our extended family’s lives. We appreciate that authorities have issued a correction, although we are concerned that the correction will not receive nearly as much traction as the error. 

This misidentification, I understand as emblematic of broader systematic issues in regards to state conceptualizations of the Muslim body: one that is treated both precariously and disposably, one that can be subject to violation in a myriad of ways, one that has a presumed disposition to criminality and terrorism. It must be problematized that this press conference must exist in order to clear my name and prove my innocence. It must be problematized that Muslim communities are faced with presumed guilt and criminality, and are forced to prove their innocence, to condemn and apologize attacks for acts of terror, and to perform their humanity. 

Massive strife has broken out in Sri Lanka in recent days, straining relationships between religious minorities to beyond breaking points. The potential backlash against Muslim communities in Sri Lanka is terrifying, and all Sri Lankan members of diaspora fear for the safety and wellbeing of our families, especially given that Muslims have been afflicted by systemic violence in the country. It can only be hoped that this critical time is characterized by policymaking that promotes civil rights of all communities, and solidarity between religious groups in Sri Lanka, as opposed to further perpetuation of violence. 

Finally, I want to end with the following. Our Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him, was the most gentle, the most humble of mankind, and espoused an unwavering commitment to justice and an ethics of compassion. As we journey through a world of horrific state and non state violence, colonial legacy, various types of occupation, and systematic racism—I hope to consistently humilify myself with his example. 

Thank you.

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