24 June, 2024


Either Way Muslims Have No Escape

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

Experience is an honest Teacher. To let others, benefit from one’s own experience that person must share it with them. This is exactly what this piece is about.

The incident stems from a casual chat between old friends. Each person was arguing on a certain matter trying to prove his point as superior. All with a sense of humour and poking fun at each other.  I, too, did the same. At one point, I changed my opinion and expressed a different view. The moment I did that one of my friends said, ‘you are now changing your view, typical thambiya’. I am thankful to them because they are the reason for me to clarify an important matter that bugs many people. Firstly, my friends are decent and respectable Sinhalese people. They are not racists. Secondly, when they made the statement typical ‘thambiya’, I am hundred percent certain that they said so not with a racist intent.  However, that was proof that this perversion has been engrained in the minds of people.Like my friends there are many out there who have been innocently influenced by this deep-rooted prejudice.

Neither is any community better than another nor, is any person of one community better than a person from another community.  In every community there is the good, the bad and the ugly.  We are all human beings and that is how human beings are made of by nature.  Civic mindedness demands that this needs to be highlighted.  It is unreasonable, unscientific and illogical to address Muslims in this perverted sense.

Analysing ‘Thambiya’

In Tamil ‘Thambi’ means, ‘brother’ a very affectionate word.  In the past, even the Sinhalese people respectfully refer to a person of Muslim or Tamil origin, as ‘thambi’.  Today, this word is used by most of the Sinhala majority as a derogatory or offensive term especially targeting the Muslim people.  A by-product of the unfortunate growth of racism in this country. Far from the respectful address of those days, ‘Thambiya’ has now been given a new definition by the racists. It means, ‘Kattaya’ (cunning) and untrustworthy Muslim person.

In this background, lets analyse the situation where a Muslim person is considered as a cunning and untrustworthy person. The word, ‘thambiya’ in its distorted version had been alluded to increasingly in the social media by the Sinhala extremists.  This usage against the Muslims has been taken for granted by everyone without proper inquiry or understanding.  If some Muslim businessmen are accused of cheating, the same is true of some Sinhalese and Tamil businessmen who also cheat.   Hostile stereo typing a particular people belonging to a culture, religion or ethnicity is unreasonable.

See the difference between these two stereo types: (1) Bruce Lee of martial art fame is Chinese. The perceptive assumption can be that all Chinese people know at least some kung fu. (2) ISIS the terrorist outfit are ‘Muslims’ so all Muslims are terrorists.  The first is a positive stereotype while the second is negative.  Both are unscientific statements.  The truth is that not every Chinese knows kung fu nor every Muslim is a terrorist.  Similarly, the usage of the word ‘thambiya’ connoting all Muslims as cunning or untrustworthy is unscientific.  Logically, there should then be Sinhala and Tamil ‘thambiyas’ too, within this description.

Black Sheep

Culture defines the values, norms, social behaviour, outlook etc. of the people fitting into a particular culture.  People belong to various cultures.  This is a universal reality.  Those belonging to one culture through cognitive structuring develops certain perceptions of the cultural pattern of the other group.  These can be both positive and negative perceptions.  Some of these perceptions can also be irrational, distorted or prejudiced.  Several factors contribute to this – appearance, social interaction, jealousness, inability to compete etc.

The Muslim community is not an exception to the reality that in every community there are black sheep. It will be dishonest to deny that in the Muslim community there are no cunning or untrustworthy people.  In the same way, there are several cunning and untrustworthy people in other communities too.  The distortion of this truism takes place when one group, based on the exceptional situation of a few persons, prejudicially uses a broad brush on the entire community.  This is done influenced by prejudice; that is preconceived or unfounded opinion not based on reason. One of the causes being dislike or hostility towards the target group’s behaviour. Yet another being the psyche of dominance over another group of people.  Here, in this instance, the Muslims.


Blaming an entire community for the wrongdoings of a few is called stereotyping. A stereotype is a generalization about a group of people which arises from prejudicial targeting, as in the case of ‘thambiya’.  Therefore, most of the times stereo types are inaccurate.

This holier-than-thouattitude of the Sinhala people cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.  Some Sinhalese people behave as if no one in their community are cunning or untrustworthy. Or, in other words, figuratively there is no ‘thambiya’ amongst them, according to the new definition.  To think in this manner is absolutely wrong.  The inherent prejudice denies them the rational thinking of taking cognisance of the fact of the same ‘thambi’ behavioural pattern in their own community.  You see what others are like, according to your own perception and, fail to see such qualities in your own self.  The reason is because you are not prejudiced negatively with your own self and, naturally have not stereo typed the behaviour of your people.

Let us consider the following situations (though I do not necessarily subscribe to some of these). The Muslim politicians are accused as turn coats and opportunists.  Are not the Sinhalese or Tamil politicians the same?  When the Muslims start a political party, they are communalists. When the Sinhalese start an ethnic party, they are protectors of their race. When the monks speak out, they are protecting Buddhism and the race.  When the Muslim learned speak out they are promoting Wahabism (if this allegation is true or false is a separate debate).  When the Muslim speaks kindly and respectfully, he is labelled as cunning. When he does not show these qualities, he is called arrogant.  When Muslims do not use Sinhala names they are accused of not integrating.  When a Muslim starts a new business with a Sinhala name, he is accused of deceiving the Sinhala people using a Sinhalese name.  When a Muslim change his position based on newer facts he is untrustworthy.  When he sticks to his point without change, he is called a bigot. Muslims are accused of not contributing to the economy.  When a Muslim develops a business, he is accused of usurping the business of the Sinhalese people (and they cowardly commit acts of arson).  Muslims are accused of slaughtering cows but the Sinhalese queue up to buy beef or order their favourite plate of ‘devilled beef’ when having a drink. The list of no escape either way can continue, in this manner.

Miccha Sankappa

The Sinhalese community must remind themselves of the words of buddha on ‘right view’ (Samma Ditti).  Right view produces right thinking (Samma Sankappa).  Come out of these prejudicial, stereo type and maladaptive perceptions ‘wrong thinking’ (Miccha Sankappa) about another group of people.  Whoever does not have the basic ‘samma ditti’, such person is far from liberation and will continue to live within the dungeons of darkness.  He creates hell not only for himself but for others as well.

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  • 2

    Usuf is newly promoted to title of “Hilmy class racist”. He cannot tolerate “Thambiya” (I am not saying anybody should tolerate anything offensive on them).
    But here it is promotion Usaf received causing the intolerance. After the promotion, now he is a high priced “Pure Arabian”. He cannot be used with a word telling him that he is a “Tamil speaking person”. The derogation word is hiding his (artificial) identification of that he is “An Arabian” and thus a Muslim, not a Tamil. That is what insulting him. So don’t use anything would give a meaning that his is origin is Dravidian Tamil. If you don’t know something to tease him using Arabic, use just Sinhala. Call him Malliya with the derogatory sense. He will be proud and happy. If you use Thambiya, it tells that his is a Tamil origin person. He cannot tolerate calling him as a Tamil. He achieved his new title by derogating everything possible of Tamils and LTTE. Now if you that to insult him that really hurt him.

    The Hat and Burqa wearing Modayas unify with Sinhala Buddhist Modayas to form the Muslim Sinhala Governments, the Appe Aanduwa. This is telling that other than these artificial whining topics of being called Thambiya or full right to wear burqa (Burqa, by definition not a Pakistani, Indian dress) in children’s schools Muslims have no problem in the country. They don’t recognize them as minorities or work for minority solution.

  • 3

    Thambi in Tamil, is the polite form of younger brother. Normally it is not used in as younger brother, that way. Elder sisters only call younger brothers Thambi. Elder brothers don’t follow that ritual. So it is parents, who frequently call their children as Periya Thambi or Thami or Sinna Thambi. Thambi used as like Sinhala “Podi Mathya- Junior Master” by castes. So an oppressed caste person who had earned status by age would call higher caste person Thambi. He/she wouldn’t call “Sir” –Aiya. But the practice was it got used across all ages of oppressed casted. So 10 years boy may call 30 years man Thambi. That means he still finding some short in the 30 years man’s status (The man’s father may still alive being & called with full “Sir”.) I don’t know the status of that practice in North, now. I would think it is out of use. One may remember LTTE boys were addressed as “Thamabi”. Apparently it came from that custom. That was the respect for their gun and the affection they had to the boys. Thambi is not equivalent of Annai, which just have recognition of age only, but Thambi carry the insistence of politeness. It is bewildering Thambi is interpreted by Muslims as derogatory, nowadays.

  • 1

    quote :LBO

    Apr 09, 2018 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s government revenue as a share of GDP is lower than many peers, while the government debt-to-GDP ratio is much higher, Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement.

    Debt-to-GDP ratio in Ethiopia, Uganda and Ghana among other countries is lower than Sri Lanka even though revenue-to-GDP ratio in these countries higher than Sri Laka

    The Candidate for 2020, must clearly state ( ,not speculate ,) in detail black on white ,how he is going to pay hack our debts and what time frame ,from where the financing is going to come f
    , how will he eradicate poverty ,housing for the homeless ,the health services ,law & Order ,protection for all Citizens ,if another loan is to be obtained from China ,what are terms &Conditions, what are we to compromise and sacrifice ? I do not see any other source who will give us any loans other than China, to keep going for the next forty years least until we are be able to make some progress.

    But if Union. Strikes and political maneuvered Racial hate continues ,will any funding or any politician be able to save the Country from a total financial disastrous collapse ! ?

    Time a lone will team

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1

    “Either way Muslims have no escape” is a wrong heading I suppose ! It should
    read as ” Either way Muslims have no peace or Muslims are a target or Muslims
    are not safe .” An escape route is needed only for the racist criminals who are
    hell bent to bathe in blood ! And also , an escape route is needed to those who
    instigate violence under religious and political cover , the double faced snakes !

  • 2

    $ 1 billion Chinese loan although for the central highway is indeed a good news for Sri Lanka ,at least it would stabilize the currency for sometime and as long as The President and PM puts on a tight grip on the inflow of the funds we do not have to worry for sometime ,as a citizen it gives me some hope to protect our Country’s current financial situation .

    What is needed now is to stop taking political advantage of every move of the government and promote a positive attitudes ,politicians from all parties must encourage the people to engage in trade that will bring In. Foreign exchange to the country , meanwhile we the people need to understand for the next forty to fifty years ,no matter who comes to power ,who runs the government ,we will need to keep on borrowing and rolling , but it depends how the person who runs the country puts into use the money borrowed ,if it is abused and it continue to be abused by every successive government ,then no power on earth or heaven can help us.

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