12 July, 2020

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Deteriorating Sinhalese-Muslim Relations

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

A worrying development in post-2009 Sri Lanka is the rapidly deteriorating relations between Sinhalese and Muslims, and more accurately, between Buddhist Sinhalese and Muslims. The late historian Lorna Dewaraja, in her pioneering study of The Muslims of Sri Lanka: One thousand years of Ethnic Harmony 900-1915, (The Lanka Islamic Foundation, Colombo, 1994) noted that the relationship between Sinhalese and Muslims was so peaceful, “it has passed unnoticed by the historian” (p.1). If something is an accepted norm who would waste time talking or writing about it? It was a millennium of an unparalleled golden era, when Islam and Buddhism, and Muslims and Sinhalese commingled and coexisted as one integrated community, and as happened nowhere else in Asia. Even after the first Sinhalese-Muslim riot in 1915 – an aberration brought about by the evils of a laissez faire economy, the closeness between these two communities grew even stronger, in spite of certain sporadic and localised disturbances, which, in most cases were settled quickly by the intervention of community leaders, and on a few occasions where there was a threat of escalation prompt action by governments brought peace and quiet.  

This cordiality and tolerance appears to have changed dramatically after 2009 and with the defeat of Tamil separatism. This does not mean that every Sinhalese has become overnight a rabid Islamophobe bent on wiping out the Muslim community. Nor does it mean that every Buddhist and its clergy wants Islam be obliterated from the face of Sri Lanka. In fact, if there were two ‘religions’ (Buddhism and Islam are not religions in the Western sense but ways of life) in history that coexisted with mutual respect and tolerance all along the Silk Road, it was Buddhism and Islam1. Sinhalese are one of if not the friendliest people to live with and Buddhism is a fortress for compassion and tolerance. How then does one explain the recent deterioration of Sinhalese-Muslim or Buddhist-Muslim relations and particularly after 2009? To answer this question, one has to take a few steps back in history and look at the developments – political, economic and sociocultural – that took place in post-independent Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese-Muslim Political Relations

With political independence, which was more of a gift from Britain than of an achievement through a collective liberation struggle by the different ethnic and social segments of plural Sri Lanka, which could be argued as the primary reason why the country has still not developed a collective nationhood, the country inherited a democratic constitution with the Westminster model of representative government. Although political parties were formed and elections were contested, ethnicity, religion and caste played a crucial role in determining the outcome of those contests. Without much exaggeration one could safely conclude that it was the Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic divide that largely influenced not only election victories but also important government policies and programs. How did this politics affect Sinhalese-Muslim relations?

In the demographic profile of the island, Muslims (Moors and Malays) form the second minority with 9.5% of the population in 2011 census, while Sinhalese accounted for 74% and Tamils 15.5% (Indian and Sri Lankan varieties). Religious wise, Buddhists counted 70%, Hindus 12.5% and Muslims 9.7%.  Although Muslims were weak in number their spatial ubiquity and an inherited commercial trait to strike a good bargain, in combination with the growing Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic divide and bitter political divisions within Sinhalese themselves, made them to convert their numerical weakness into strategic strength and reap maximum benefits, without forming at the same time a political party of their own, at least until the end of 1980s. Because of that strategic strength, practically in every government since 1947, Muslims held cabinet positions.    

This political relationship between Sinhalese dominated governments and Muslims, not only proved beneficial to Muslims but also to the government and country at large. For example, in the context of deepening bitterness between Sinhalese and Tamils that was driving them towards fighting a war, generous accommodation of Muslim demands by successive governments with prestigious cabinet positions offered to Muslim parliamentarians, (for example, Dr. Badiuddin Mahmud as Minister of Education in Srimavo Bandaranaike government and A. C. S. Hameed as Foreign Minister in JR Jayewardene government) helped to advertise and sell an image of ethnic and religious tolerance to the outside world, which brought in attractive economic benefits especially from Arab countries. In a sense, the Non Aligned Summit held in Colombo in 1976 was a singular achievement of Sinhalese-Muslim friendship.  

However, this friendship was not free of criticism from certain sections of the Sinhalese community. Sometimes ministerial grudges and factional rivalry within the cabinet, like that of a running battle among Felix Dias, Ilangaratne and Badiuddin in Srimavo cabinet, were allowed to spill over outside the parliament and sometimes erupted into sporadic Sinhalese-Muslim clashes. A number of such incidents, in Kandy, Gampola and Puttalam in 1970s could be attributed to this inter-ministerial animosity. Also, on a broader level there was a growing dissatisfaction amongst leading Sinhalese personalities and civil groups of the disproportionate political influence of Muslim leaders, who were viewed as king makers. JR Jayewardene (JR), was one politician who was determined to put an end to this. In a fit of anger, he once asked all Muslim MPs and Muslim ministers in his government to quit, when they protested against his decision to allow Israel to open a consulate in Colombo. Later, it was also to cripple the king making role of Muslims that he brought in the system of proportional representation. That measure obviously backfired. Quite unintentionally, he became the midwife not for a revolution as the leftists were lecturing for a long time, but for the birth in 1988 of a Muslim ethnic party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which became even more influential in the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) Presidency.    

For instance, the mega-ministry of Shipping, Ports and Rehabilitation held by SLMC’s founder-leader M. H. M. Ashraff, virtually became an employment agency for young SLMC supporters from the Eastern Province, just as the Ministry of Education was for educated Muslims under Badiuddin in 1970s. Ashraff was also accused by Buddhists that he allowed Muslims to encroach into lands belonged to Buddhist temples in Dighavapiya in the Eastern Province. Adding fuel to fire, Ashraff’s much publicised verbal encounter with Ven. Gangodawila Soma, a prominent Buddhist priest, in which the latter was reported to have emerged second best, was a strategic blunder by the exuberant leader, which only helped to aggravate Buddhists’ anti-Muslim feelings. After Ashraff’s tragic death, SLMC continued to hold prominent positions under CBK’s successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR), and continued to damage Sinhalese-Muslim relations. 

Sinhalese and Muslim Economic Relations

If there is one profession that could be justifiably described as Islamic, it is trade. Accordingly, Muslims arrived in Sri Lanka as traders and remained so until late into 20th century, earning in due course the sobriquet, “business community”. The absence of a trading class amongst Sinhalese and perhaps a desire to cultivate friendship with the then super power, Abbasid Caliphate, prompted ancient Buddhist monarchs to welcome the new arrivals and allow them remain permanently, which heralded the golden era referred to at the beginning. 

In a critical analysis of “Contemporary Buddhist-Muslim Relations in Sri Lanka”, my former colleague at Peradeniya, Professor Gerald. H. Peiris observes, that “in the daily lives of a large majority of people living in most parts of the island their inter-ethnic relations are seldom interaction among equals.”2 In a caste, ethnic and religious conscious society there will always be certain rigidities that hinder inter-communal interaction on equal terms.  However, the interaction between the Sinhalese and Muslims at the mass level was chiefly market oriented and pecuniary.  When a seller and a buyer successfully negotiate and complete a transaction, they both normally go equally satisfied. However, as a class of professional middlemen, Muslims bought from and sold to a predominantly Sinhalese clientele. In that transaction, as middlemen do everywhere and at all times, Muslims enjoyed multiple opportunities for profiting. Although this relationship remained the principal mode of interaction, especially during colonial times, it continued to persist even after independence. 

However, trade and commerce in the retail sector was not the monopoly of Muslims. A class of Sinhalese entrepreneurs and businessmen emerged during the British era and began to compete with Muslims. This competition when became intense after independence Sinhalese-Muslim economic relations became strained. Free market does not guaranty success to everyone who enters it. This is why monopoly of some sort becomes an attractive option to any trader with sufficient means. At least in two sectors, textiles and gems, Muslim businessmen enjoyed a near monopoly in decades following independence. Almost in every town and city in the Sinhalese districts textile shops owned by Muslims, who were not necessarily belonged to the locality, became a permanent feature. For instance, traders from Kattankudy in the Eastern Province almost dominated the textile business in towns as far as Lunugala, Passara, Badulla, Bandarawela, and Welimada in the Uva Province. In Sinhalese villages too Muslim peddlers of cloth and trinkets were omnipresent during weekly markets and festival fairs. Likewise, in the gem trade Muslims of Beruwela virtually enjoyed a monopoly. When ethnic or religious minorities become economically successful it tends to provoke resentment form the majority. This happened against the Chinese in Malaysia, and Indians in Kenya, Burma and Fiji. A similar trend started developing in Sri Lanka also, and the voice of Sinhalese resentment against Muslim businessmen reached the ears of local priests in Buddhist temples. It is this combined opposition from Sinhalese business interests and Buddhist clergy against Muslim businesses that became the common thread weaving several Sinhalese-Muslim riots after 2009.  

Muslim businesses and Muslim economy received a rude shock when the leftist coalition led by Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike came to power in 1970 and started the socialist economic experiment. In that, restriction of market enterprises, nationalisation of industries, control over external trade and land reforms hit the Muslims harder. Realising the losses accruing to his community, Education Minister Badiuddin Mahmud invited a group of Muslim leaders to a Tea Party at his Colombo residence in 1972 and warned them not to swim against the socialist tide, but to change direction and look for other avenues to survive. He himself used education as one escape valve, and before the end of the socialist regime in 1977 he turned the so called “business community” more or less into a teachers community. It was his fearless use of that ministry as virtual employment agency for educated Muslims that created the inter-ministerial rivalry and Sinhalese-Muslim clashes referred to earlier.

With the end of the socialist experiment, Muslims resumed their business pursuits, perhaps with vengeance, under JR’s open economy. His economic model was capitalism in all its nakedness. A number of Muslims who were employed in education sector hitherto resigned their positions and either became businesses entrepreneurs locally or migrated to the Middle East in search of lucrative jobs. Those emigrants when returned after sojourn invested their savings in businesses. The world of private business in the country was becoming an arena of intense competition with entrepreneurs and investors from all ethnic groups. In this competition a few Muslim businesses such as the two leading retail fashion chains, No Limit and Fashion Bug, performed exceptionally well, which aggravated the already growing commercial jealousy amongst a group of Sinhalese businessmen.     

Socio-cultural issues

Socio-culturally there had been absolutely no impediments, and there is no evidence to the contrary, to disturb the peaceful interaction and coexistence between Sinhalese and Muslims for over a millennium. The influence of Sufism that was injected predominantly from the Indian subcontinent, and the syncretic nature of a number of Islamic practices adopted by local Muslims found a great degree of acceptance within the ethos of Buddhism. As mentioned at the beginning, Islam and Buddhism interacted and cross pollinated culturally throughout the historic Silk Road. After independence however, two different waves of Islamic influence, one coming from the subcontinent since late 1950s in the form of Tabligh Jamaat (TJ), and the other from Arab Middle East from 1980s started creating fissures in Sinhalese-Muslim socio-cultural cohesion. Of the two, it was the second that proved more destabilising.   

TJ is an Islamic missionary movement that wants to make Muslims better Muslims in terms of religious observance. It is exceptionally peaceful in approach, which is its strength, and entirely otherworldly in objective, which is its weakness. Its mission has spread universally, and it is very popular particularly where Muslims live as minorities. Because of its tremendous success in Sri Lanka, by 1980s the country had become an exemplar for TJ activities. TJ rarely got involved in conversion of non-Muslims although tens of thousands of them attracted by the simplicity, selflessness, brotherhood and spirituality of TJ activists had accepted Islam as their new faith. 

One outstanding achievement of TJ mission in Sri Lanka is the preponderance of worshippers crowding inside mosques, which necessitated the construction of more and spacious mosques to accommodate the size, a development that started irking Sinhalese nationalists. By 1987, the country had 1,600 mosques and the number was increasing. JR’s open economy allowed funds to flow in from the Gulf States and private Arab donors that went directly into building centres of worship and Islamic education.                        

Unlike the TJ inspired Islamic wave from India, the second wave was the product of an Islamic awakening that originated in the Middle East in late 1970s, with Khomenian impulse. It was the Iranian Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini that toppled the Western backed Shah and established an Islamic government in Iran that gave rise to the slogan ‘Islam the Answer’, which went viral amongst the Muslim youth. The anti-American propaganda exported by the Iranian regime frightened the super power, which started looking for an antidote for Khomeinism, and found it in the ultra-conservative doctrine of Wahhabism rooted in Saudi-Arabia, America’s “Eternal Friend”. US gave free license to the Saudis to spread their doctrine the world over, including the US. JR’s open economy coincided with the clash of two Islamic orthodoxies, Shiite Khomeinism and Sunni Wahhabism.

In an open economy, it is not only products and productive factors that move across borders but also ideas, ideologies and even behavioural modes. Thus, through the gates of JR’s open economy or Dharmista Samajaya, as described by that great Sinhala Buddhist playwright Ediriweera Sarachchandra3, Wahhabism entered Sri Lanka not only to disturb the prevailing intra-faith harmony within the Muslim community, but also to damage inter-ethnic harmony between Sinhalese and Muslims.       

Until the intrusion of Wahhabism after 1980s, there was ample tolerance for diverse theological interpretations and religious rituals within the local Muslim community. The syncretic Islam practiced in India and brought to Sri Lanka was the product of that tolerance. Even TJ missionaries rarely got involved in theological or ritual purification. Wahhabis on the other hand consider themselves as the only practitioners of pure Islam, which is theirs, and they have no tolerance for any other sects or thought. They hate the Shi’a and they have no tolerance for Sufism. Already in the 1990s, Kattankudy in the Eastern Province, the birth place of that jihadist Zahran and his National Tawheed Jamaat, witnessed the first outbreak of intra-faith violence between Wahhabis and followers of two other Sufi movements4, a development that was to have serious ramifications later. 

Wahhabism’s contribution to inter-ethnic disharmony in general and deteriorating Sinhalese-Muslim relations in particular came out of certain behavioural changes that crept into the Muslim community, which quite unintentionally set a trend towards the community’s self-alienation. From 1980s onwards one could see a distinct difference in the sartorial accoutrement of Muslim men and women, which enhanced that alienation. While many of the men adopted the Arab thobe and gave up the traditional sarong and shirt worn by most ordinary Sri Lankans, large number of women started wearing the black abaya, niqab and burqa and gave up the traditional sari and salwar. With these changes gender segregation, an important feature of Wahhabism came to be adhered more strictly. One only has to walk into any university in the country to see how Muslim female undergraduates are covered in black and how segregated they are in the lecture and tutorial rooms, a phenomenon never existed before 1980s. The fact that this dress is unsuitable to the climate and culture of the country, the two basic determinants of dress in any society, was ignored in the name of religious identity. 

Self-alienation also manifested in the way Muslim townships like Kattankudy were changing in their appearance. While Arabian date palms were planted to beautify streets, names of business sign boards and public buildings started appearing in Arabic script.          

It was in this ambience of ultra conservative orthodoxy that the issue of halal came up. This had nothing to do with Wahhabism directly, but everything to do with business opportunities arising from closer contact with Arab countries. Muslims had been eating halal food from the day they arrived in this country without any problem. No Sinhalese or Tamil, neither a Buddhist, nor a Christian and not even a vegetarian Hindu ever protested against this Muslim practice, although Buddhists never liked slaughtering of animals and Hindus the cows in particular. Why did it become an issue after 1980s? Once again, one can trace the reason to JR’s open economy. Halal food is a multibillion dollar business in the global market. Petrodollar Muslim nations and millions of Muslims living the West demand not only halal meat but also edible items free of alcohol content and other sharia proscribed ingredients. This had led to a plethora of government approved halal certifying agencies in exporting countries, and those agencies charged fee for their services, which increased suppliers’ cost and was loaded on to the price paid by consumers. In a number of instances, which I am personally aware of, the agents were more concerned about the fee they received than services they offered. In Australia, there were instances when a certifier issued certificates by faxing them to the exporting company without even stepping into the abattoir. There is also differences of opinion about what is halal and what is not.  

In Sri Lanka, the All Ceylon Jamiyythul Ulama (ACJU) took upon itself the role of certifying in return for a fee. Since it acted as a monopolist the fees it charged could not have been competitively arrived but arbitrarily fixed and therefore understandably high. Whether ACJU was appointed by the government I am not aware. However, not all the halal certified products were exported and some of them entered domestic market and bought by non-Muslims also. Obviously the price of that product would be higher than the non-halal variety. No wonder, Muslims were accused of cornering the market through halal certification, and the halal issue added to an already troubled Sinhalese-Muslim relationship. Then entire issue was mishandled from the beginning by the government and ACJU.  

Before concluding this part, two more aspects of TJ-Wahhabi Islamization needs be highlighted. As mentioned earlier, the influence of TJ among Sri Lankan Muslims was quite widespread and deep when Wahhabism entered in 1980s. In fact, Wahhabism built its own influence on foundations laid by TJ. Internationally too and within the world of Sunni Islam, these two movements revived and strengthened the old Islamic identity of umma or universal community introduced by the Prophet of Islam, which in course of time and with development of nationalism clashed with the identity of watan or nation. What the umma identity in Sri Lanka did was for Muslims to self-alienate from the main stream society in the name of preserving their religious identity. (This was not unique to Sri Lanka. There was at this time one or two leading activists, who went around Western countries like Australia and advocated the view that Muslim minorities should isolate themselves in a separate enclave and live according to the commandments of the sharia). In short, belief and belonging began to clash under the watchful eyes of community leaders.

The other aspect of this disturbing development was Islamization of Muslim politics. SLMC under Ashraff was gradually turning into an Islamist party. Its flag, slogans, conditions of membership and public campaigns, all had an overbearing Islamist tone. I have dealt with this aspect in great detail in my chapter to a forthcoming book on Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization, edited by Professor Samina Yasmeen from the University of Western Australia.

In conclusion, the disproportionate political influence of Muslims, their successful economic enterprises, and publicly displayed religiosity, all created consternation among certain influential quarters of Sinhalese society. But, it did not come to the open and become phobic as it did after 2009, because the immediate threat and the main enemy at that time were the Tamils and their arme3d struggle for Tamil Eelam. From the point of view of the Sinhalese that struggle posed an existential crisis. The annihilation of LTTE in 2009 changed the situation dramatically.                

Notes:

1. John Silverskog, Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.       

2. https://thuppahi.wordpress.com2017/09/14/a-study-of-contermporary-buddhist-musli

3. Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Dharmista Samajaya, Colombo: Elko Industries, 1982. 

4. Ameer Ali, “Kattankudy in Eastern Sri Lanka: A Mullah-Merchant Urban Complex Caught between Islamist Factionalism and Ethno-Nationalisms”, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, vol. 29, no. 2, 2009, pp. 183-194.  

*To be continued… 

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Latest comments

  • 9
    17

    As per Dr. Ameer Ali.
    /
    “””relations between Buddhist Sinhalese and Muslims were rapidly deteriorating”””
    /
    So……….
    Islamic fundamentalists….
    Desided to bomb the hell out of “””Christian Sinhalese”””

    • 14
      5

      Dear Writer,
      .
      Let me correct your title.
      .
      Deteriorating the ties between srilanken muslims and sinhala slaves that are servile to Rajapakshe racists.

      Not all sinhalaya would support Rajaakshes bastards who have now proved to be incapble of handling COVID-19 crisis. Nepal is far poor than Srilanka, but they have managed to COVID with zero deaths.
      .
      Vietnam has managed it with zero death
      They are enoug examples among the island nations that have managed it as no other.
      Our BPs go on comparing srialnken numbers with that of european countries. is that right ?
      Rajapakshe brains are dead not being able to realize the least.. See whenever the TV discussion rounds are called, just GMOA men are seen as the invitees leaving university dons and other researchers in COMMUNITY diesese controls/Epidemiology aside. Why is that ?
      A woman with a bed pan style mouth piece, a lawyer has been appointed as the minister of health ?
      Money management is ruined by the mediation of US Citzen Basil BP Rajaksshe whose criminal records are public secret.
      Last night i heard that highly alleged criminal man Rambukwalla saying – even if the allegations levelled at, so long they are not yet finalized, these men with criminal casess being filed cannot be regarded as criminals.

      • 6
        14

        leelagemalli,
        In 2009, Rajapakshe Regime defeated ‘Para’ Demala terrorists.
        In 2019, voters in this country defeated ‘Regime Change’ mafia.
        Defeated parties suffering from inferiority complex obviously do not like the winners. This kind of statements reflect their anger and frustration.
        “Deteriorating the ties between srilanken muslims and sinhala slaves that are servile to RAJAPAKSHE RACISTS” (My emphasis).
        Not all sinhalaya would support RAJAAKSHES BASTARDS (My emphasis) who have now proved to be incapble of handling COVID-19 crisis.

        As the old Arab proverb says ‘Dogs bark but the Rajapakshe caravan moves on’.

        • 0
          2

          Indian PROVERB “if you see TAMIL and COBRA kill TAMIL first” Sinhalese Proverb, “unborn TAMIL, TAMIL who dead and TAMIL in front of the mirror never ever trust”

        • 0
          1

          Indian Proverb “if you see TAMIL and COBRA kill TAMIL first” old Sinhala Aryans proverb in TAMIL language, TAMILAL SAY PEETH SARI

      • 4
        8

        BP with low IQ keeps on comparing Nepal and Sri Lanka which is totally irrelevant because this guy does not like to compare Sri Lanka with the country where he is doing Toi Let cleaning that has miserably failed to control COVID-19.

        “Our BPs go on comparing srialnken numbers with that of european countries. is that right ?”

  • 11
    11

    The fish rots from the top. It is all up to the leaders of the country, to curb this, IF they love this country, and WANT peace and unity, so that it can progress and be as successful as other multi religious nations, that we see around the world.
    The problem is they have their own devious agenda, and use nationalism, like racist Modi next door, to cause a wedge, to win elections and keep their powers. Take a look at Modi’s India, it has been condemned internationally for the violence against minorities, the discrimination against them, and the hate speeches by Modi and his goons, provoking Hindus, and the fake news about the Muslims being spread by racist media (like Derana).
    If this government continues arresting lawyers and ignoring the attacks on Muslims, it will soon have to say bye bye to our top revenue – remittances from Muslim nations.
    “Why Arabs are speaking out against Islamophobia in India
    Anger in Gulf region as right-wing Hindus target Muslims, accusing them of a ‘conspiracy’ to spread coronavirus.
    In the past couple of weeks, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Kuwait government, a royal princess of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as a number of Arab activists have called out Islamophobic hate speech by Indians seen to be accusing the country’s Muslims of spreading the novel coronavirus.

    • 7
      9

      Cont.
      “A barrage of tweets and statements from individuals and institutions in the Gulf expressing their outrage over the hateful social media posts forced the Indian government to respond, including a Twitter post by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he stressed that “COVID-19 does not see race [or] religion”

      Obviously Modi wants the Muslim money to keep coming into his racist country.

      The question is do we want to follow that same path that our racist neighbor has taken, which has resulted in disaster, unrest, ethnic violence against the minority, all condemned by the world. Then we will risk the Arab nations taking steps against us too, and we will lose billions of dollars that we depend on. We cannot afford it, and eventually if we keep on this track our people will be sent back too, as the way they are threatening to send back Indians who spread hate against Muslims. They have also banned Indian channels shown in their nations who spread anti Muslim propaganda over there. Finally the Gulf states are speaking up.

  • 9
    4

    A very balanced and unbiased article from a Muslim writer in quite a while. His accurate depiction of almost all aspects of social transformation and influences that guided these changes is commendable. An enlightening read with many good references to learn about our contemporary history.

    • 5
      3

      Lasantha Pethiyagoda,

      1) … it was the Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic divide that largely influenced not only election victories but also important government policies and programs.
      How did this politics affect Sinhalese-Muslim relations?

      ______
      The Muslims took advantage of this politics to the detriment of Tamils.
      The ethnic divide was exacerbated by the unstinting support Muslims – a minority group – gave the majority community, to sabotage rights of Tamils, – another minority group.
      .
      2) Although Muslims were weak in number their spatial ubiquity and an inherited commercial trait to strike a good bargain, in combination with the growing Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic divide and bitter political divisions within Sinhalese themselves, made them to convert their numerical weakness into strategic strength and reap maximum benefits,
      _______
      Establishing my previous argument.
      .
      3) Ministry of Education under Badiuddin in 1970s virtually became an employment agency for supporters.
      ______
      Enhancing my argument.
      .
      4) … the main enemy at that time were the Tamils. The annihilation of LTTE in 2009 changed the situation.
      ______
      Proves the argument.
      ________________________________
      Did these observations escape your scrutiny, Lasantha Pethiyagoda. Normally you understand well. How did you fail this time.

      • 4
        3

        Nathan you are 100% correct . These Sri Lankan Muslims are not Moors , as their ancestors never arrived from Morocco or any part of North Africa and the Arab element is only confined to a few hundred families living largely in Colombo , Kandy and Galle and that too in is a very minor element , a distant male Arab ancestor , with the rest of their ancestors all Dravidian Tamils. They are Tamils by ethnicity but are trying to create a fake ethnicity and identity , using their religion and an imagined Arab origin , that only around 5% of them have as a minor contribution. To justify this they pathetically cling and use the term ” Moor”,( the term that all Portuguese incorrectly used to describe all South Asian Muslims not just the Sri Lankan Muslims) to describe themselves , which makes people incorrectly think that they of some North African or Western Asian origin .,Which is a joke as more than 95% of them look like Dravidian South Indians that they really are . The Muslims who originate from the North, East and Puttalam coast are 100% Tamil Dravidians from South India. First the British then the Sinhalese deliberately encouraged this fake history , origin and lies , that their selfish power hungry elite and politicians concocted , as it suited their agenda to divide and rule the island’s Tamils on the basis of religion , origin and caste.

        • 3
          3

          ” Sri Lankan Moor is a superficial identity, superimposed by the Portuguese. “It is an epithet bestowed by the Portuguese – not with love, but to denigrate a community which they hated .“The Portuguese were zealots. They were against Islam. With the fall of Spain, they looked down upon Muslims,” he added, “For the sake of convenience they called any Muslim they met in the Indian subcontinent as Moors”.
          This matter of the ethnic marker was not taken up seriously until the 1880s when legislative councillor Ponnambalam Ramanathan wrote an article about the Sri Lankan Moors that claimed that they were of Tamil origin. “He had a political agenda to say that,” “It was a time at which the colonial government was considering giving representation for Muslims in the legislature. In order to sabotage this, he argued that the Moors were Tamils. The Muslims of the Colombo elite, at the time, realized that if they did not abolish this idea, they would lose representation. So, they took on the identity of Moors as opposed to Tamils. This is how the Muslims of Sri Lanka came to embrace this identity.” Dr. Ali Should know What ever Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s motive was he stated the truth . The Sri Lankan Muslims are Tamils by ethnicity. Their close relatives living in Tamil Nadu identify themselves as Tamils , even the ones who have Arab or other western Asian ancestry.

  • 7
    12

    Ameer Ali,
    Instead of blaming Sinhala Supremacists and Buddhist monks use your brain to figure out the invisible hand/s operating to create tension between Sinhala Buddhists and Muslims.

    If a thorough investigation is carried out you will find that in all the recent incidences of Sinhala Buddhist and Muslim clashes, the first stone was thrown by Muslims but at the end blame was put on Sinhala Buddhists.
    There is an invisible hand that is trying to give the impression to the International Community that Buddhists are violent people who target Muslims in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar.

    • 5
      3

      It is embarrassing to see comments that show sheer ignorance like this.

      How’s this for Buddhist violence:
      “In late 2016, Myanmar’s armed forces and police started a major crackdown on the Rohingya people in Rakhine State in the country’s northwestern region. The Burmese military have been accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide by various United Nations agencies, International Criminal Court officials, human rights groups, journalists, and governments including the United States The UN[18][19][20] has found evidence of wide-scale human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings; gang rapes; arson of Rohingya villages, businesses, and schools; and infanticides, which the Burmese government dismisses as “exaggerations”.[21][22]

      Using statistical extrapolations based on surveys conducted with a total of 3,321 Rohingya refugee households in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a study estimated in January 2018 that the military and local Rakhine Buddhists killed at least 24,000 Rohingya people and perpetrated gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against 18,000 Rohingya Muslim women and girls, 116,000 Rohingya were beaten and 36,000 were thrown into fires.”

      Of course 24,000 plus Rohingya Muslims and the thousands of those gang raped, and thrown into the fire, are to be blamed, after all the Israeli trained and armed Buddhist military in Myanmar are so innocent, and it is the unarmed, dirt poor Rohingya (called the world’s most persecuted) the aggressors.
      How stupid is that logic?

    • 9
      0

      Eagle,
      “If a thorough investigation is carried out you will find that in all the recent incidences of Sinhala Buddhist and Muslim clashes, the first stone was thrown by Muslims “
      Is that so? Let me tell you a few facts:
      In some places, Muslims and Tamils are not allowed to do business. An example is the Kelaniya /Kiribathgoda area. Those who ignore a hint from the “SINHALA Welanda Sangamaya” suffer mysterious fires. The Police do nothing. Do you think the Muslims are bombing themselves to show that the Sinhala Buddhists are violent?

      • 0
        1

        old codger,
        Can Sinhalayo do business in Yapanaya or Erawur?
        All the Sinhalayo who did business in Yapanaya and Eastern towns were chased away by Demala barbarian LTTE. When Sinhalayo returned to Yapanaya after war came to an end, Tamil thugs chased them away. Even Rajapakshe regime did not do anything about that in the name of ‘Sanhindiyawa’ shit.
        In the case of Eastern Province, after the war came to an end, Muslims occupied all the business places owned by Sinhalayo. Eravur is a good example. Before the war started, it was 90% Sinhala but now 100% Muslim.

        After all this is the country of Native Sinhalayo. At the end, ‘Para’ Demalu and ‘Para’ Muslims are depriving Native Sinhalayo doing business in their own country.

  • 6
    7

    Another typically sad, tear pouring – devious – write up from a Muslim apologist, that blames the ‘Sinhala Buddhists for an alleged ‘deterioration’ of relations, obviously meaning alleged Sinhala ‘aggression’ against Muslims. Poor Muslims!!!
    /
    This is laughable if not for the seriousness of the issue and the lies involved.
    /
    Mr Ameer, let’s get the facts straight.
    /
    As all Muslim apologists do, you invoke late Lorna Devaraja as your starting point. As a naive academic, she wrote this in 1994 apparently, long before your own starting point of deterioration, that started in 2009.
    /
    What you fail to see, (or you are hiding deliberately) are the changes in Sri Lankan population demographics, ownership of businesses and ‘decent’ residential properties in Colombo, Galle and Kandy, not to mention the development of a little ‘Arab’, with date palms and all, in the East Coast that accelerated during the 30 year war.
    /
    The Muslims ruthlessly moved in to unjustly and greedily take over every thing that mattered. They ruled army intelligence and used it to set the Sinhala against Tamil, multiplied like rabbits (girls of 12 yrs marrying and having 12 children on the average, and with Shafi technique) to grow their population and to get more political power and bargains and concessions from all sides of Sri Lankan politics.

  • 5
    3

    Ameer Ali

    I

    You are back to your routine of creating the Impression that you are defending the Muslims when in fact you are Blaming them!
    You refer to the “deteriorating Sinhalese-Muslim relations” and blame the Tabligh Jamaat and the so-called Wahhabis. And you Evidence? The change in dressing habits of Muslims, both males and females, and changes in your small town in the East, Kattankudy, like date Palms on the roads and Name Boards in Arabic.
    Let me start with the Dresses. What is the dress that the men wear mostly in Sri Lanka? Is it not long troucers and shirt? Was it the same in the 50’s and 60’s? NO. It was Sarong and shirt for most, including the Muslims, with some Tamils opting for Verti and Sinhalese for the National dress, and nobody complained about the others’ dress. Is the troucer worn by most Sri Lankan men now, a local dress? Absolutely NOT. It is a Western attire and Nobody Complains. So, why should there be any complaint if some Muslim men choose to wear a thobe?

  • 5
    2

    II

    As for females, in the 50’s and 60’s it was mostly saree and blouse with young girls wearing either midi or maxi frocks and also salwar. What is it now? Well saree is still there to some extent but isn’t it mostly tight body hugging jeans and T shirts prominently displaying feminine features and also tight mini or midi frocks? Are these dresses Sri Lankan? Of course Not. Muslim women mostly wear Abhaya, Salwar and Maxis. And the veil is no more. My question is, why is it alright for non-Muslim females to wear Non-Sri Lankan dresses and NOT Alright for Muslim females to wear Non-Sri Lankan dresses?
    As for planting Date Palms, it is to be seen ONLY in the small town Kattankudy with a population of just over 40,000 with a country wide Muslim population of over 1,967,000 Assuming that Date Palms are bad, why should the entire Muslim population of the country be Blamed for the action of a tiny fraction of the population? On the other hand, if Date Palms are successful, surely that can be grown commercially which will save some Foreign Exchange used for importing them? Is that bad?

  • 4
    2

    III

    As for Name Boards being in Arabic, how come Name Boards in English, througout the country which certainly outnumber the Name Boards in Sinhalese and Tamil, are Not Objectionable? If in some Tourist areas in the South, if Name Boards begin to appear in Chinese, French or German, will there be any Objections?
    So, the furore created over the Muslim Dress, Date Palms and Name Boards in Arabic in Kattankudy is absolutely devoid of logic and reason and obviously, this is the handiwork of the Evil Racists. When such Diabolical and Baseless Racist ideas should be dismissed with the Scorn they deserve, even the so-called “Educated” Muslims like you seem to justify such CRAP by blaming the Wahhabis for the development.
    Let me conclude by pointing out that the reasons for the increasing Hate Campaign against the Muslims by a sizeable section of the Sinhalese are Selfish Politics aided by a Corrupt and Unscrupulous Media. It is a matter for great Regret that So-called Muslim Intellectuals like you, instead of boldly Challenging this evil phenomenon, are Helping the perpetrators by meekly succumbing to the Evil Propaganda by your Gross Inability or Lethargy to Analyze the situation Correctly and Logically.

  • 1
    1

    The writer is pains to illustrate ill treatment of Muslims and I dis agree. [edited out]

  • 3
    0

    The Sinhala- Muslim stand-off is preeminently a Political phenomenon.
    Chances are that it will remain on the political horizon just in the same way of the Sinhala-Tamil stand-off commencing early 70s [In a big way ]. During this period there was considerable progress on all fronts for the Muslim community, since they too were aligned with the Govt: of the day in providing all types of services to checkmate the Tamil armed revolt.
    The Tamil issue, more or less off the Radar, Islamic hardline teachings has been viewed as the next threat to the Sinhala Buddhist State.

    In essence the country is moving away from a Secular State and all what Dharmapala preached in his sermons, harangues and boudoir political political invocations meshed the identities and interests of an emergent Buddhist Sinhala ruling class with their mass power base.

  • 0
    0

    Mr Ali,
    When we grew up we never had this problem. We lived worked and enjoyed life as one nation. It is this extreme Muslims who are trying to follow the Koran to the letter started all these problems like it has happened in many other countries with Muslims. It is nothing new to Sri Lanka only. When Koran clearly stated 26 times as far as I know that any ‘Non-believers’ should be killed and given very instructions many ways to do it. I have a English version of the Koran given to me by a Mulla. I will give you two situations where the Muslims annoying Sinhalese, Tamils and Burghers in Sri Lanka. 1. Screaming through their loudspeakers at 0430 in the morning disturbing the sick, elderly, babies, children who has to go to school and people going to work. According to Sri Lanka Law between 9pm and 6am no one is allowed including Police are not allowed to use loudspeakers. 2. Go to Gampola and see for yourself how Muslims have built a Mosque over a public road where there are two Sinhalese villages and all the Sinhalese people have to walk under the feet of the Muslims in the Mosque including Buddhist Monks. If you want I will send you the pictures of that mosque.

  • 0
    1

    In India, 14 million Muslims, second largest Muslims Population of the world. Hindus worshipping the cows whereas Muslims slaughtering the cows. No Muslim minister in India 15 states. Namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagalam, Odisha, Sikkim, Tripura, and Uttarakhand out of 28 states. 10 other states only 1 minister each, Muslim.

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