26 May, 2022


Endless Agony Of Muslim Slum Dwellers In Colombo

By Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

Dismissed and discarded the miserable plight of the poverty stricken and illiterate Muslim slum dwellers in Colombo, proudly described in the recent past as the emerging Miracle of Asia, remains a shameful indictment on successive governments but also on the so called Muslim politicians.

These slum dwellers face acute poverty, illiteracy, housing, educational, unemployment and many such problems.

With poverty continues to play havoc most children are deprived of proper education and, early in life, they turn to petty jobs to support their families. This brings an end to their educational career and their better future.

The pathetic state of their education facilities is such that Hameed Al Husseiniya, the only national school, requires 176 teachers and other facilities. Exploiting the situation so called international schools sprang up everywhere.

Boys’ schools were needed badly for Muslims students in Colombo South and in Kolonnawa too. However all efforts to start schools failed and the misery continues. As a result drop out from school remains very high causing serious social and economic problems

Colombo MuslimsUnemployment remains a very crucial problem and people are forced to resort to any odd job for survival in their slums where many families live in small areas.

According to reports around 63 percent of Muslims in Colombo district live in slums. For example in one area in Peer Sahib Street called Watta no 61 there are eleven houses where 20 families live.

In yet another case four families live in a house built on a perch land. Muslims occupy around nine percent of the land area in Colombo Central and more than half of them live in rented houses. In one place eleven houses have one toilet and health facilities remain appalling.

There are several cases where people sleep in shifts due to lack of facilities.

Added to their misery there was no political representation for Colombo Muslims during the past five years depriving them of the budget allocations usually given to parliamentarians?

With governments and politicians ignoring these unfortunate people civil society in the Muslim community has come forward to rehabilitate them.

One such experiment was in Applewatta, a shanty of mixed population with the majority being Muslims, located in the heart of Colombo.

A group of well wishers organised a shramadana program to help improve their living conditions. Notable among those who took the initiatives were well known entrepreneur Fouzul Hameed of HAMEEDI’s, Reza Alaudeen of Serendib Educational Foundation and well known activist Hilru Siddeeque. Several others participated and donated cash to help ensure the success of this project.

The single most important achievement of this project is the awareness created on having a clean neighborhood from Masjid Bilal to the applewatte inhabitants.

Explaining the project activist Hilru Siddeeque who took part in the cleanup project had this to state; “Applewatte is one of the slums of Colombo in the Maligawatte Police division. It is comprised of  728 Muslim, 80 Hindu, 20 Buddhist and 20 Christian families approximately.”

“A team from the Serendib School Development Foundation (SSDF) visited this community on the 17th of March 2015 and was shocked to see the people living in such filthy and unhealthy environment. Their house were in poor condition with leaking roofs, broken toilets and some shacks without proper ventilation looked worse than cattle sheds. In some houses dirty water was oozing out of the floor and dirty drains passed through them.

The SSDF team organized a shramadana to help these slum dwellers and many liberally contributed. Among the organizations which took part were SSDF, NSC, SFRD, Muslim AID, AMYS, YMMA, AUSMA, COSLAM, YFH, CIS, and SLISM and of course WAMY, DGBM and individual donors .

Applewatte is a lost community. People live here without land deeds. There is coexistence in this mixed community. They have built their homes according to their ability and capacity without   proper planning in any shape with tolerance from neighborhood. There are five public toilets and one is not functional, while the other four are not in good condition either. They need repair. There are two public bathing places. Taking a bath here is a daily battle.

The people are a necessary component of the community in the near vicinity. They supply all kinds of labour for all the odd jobs, some are running small businesses like selling home-made items and some do pavement business. The Colombo businessmen depend on these slum dwellers.

Many are broken families that have resulted in some 40 orphans, 50 street children, 30 invalid, 35 paralyzed and about 15% to 20% of the children are of average standard, Poverty leads to crime. This is what happens here. Loan and interest burdens, unemployment, gambling, betting, drug trafficking and prostitution remain common here. About 15% of the women and 10% of the men have gone abroad for odd jobs and their children are lost in life.

Another recent development was the engaging of 60 children between 10 and 15 years of age to be trained as ‘Junior Volunteers’.  We need to train all volunteers with a future plan. These Volunteers can be connected to DMC if they agree to a volunteer concept to build DMC. We need to hold discussion with DMC to train their staff and out siders with input from DMC” said Hiluru.

He said urgent needs from Zakath and Sadaqa are identified.  About 100 houses need roof repair. About 60 to 80 households need kitchen utensils and many children need clothes and books.  An estimated 25% of the children are malnourished, because they cannot afford three quality meals a day. Approximately 15% of the people are beggars. About 35% are single parent family.

Masjid Bilal is a great center for people. About 2,000 people attend Jummah prayers from Applewatte and the surrounding areas. Usually all three floors get filled up and part of the road also become full. Contributions are collected from Applewatte for Masjid maintenance. From this an income of Rs 40,000.00 derived monthly. Jummah collection varies from Rs 2000 to Rs 3500. Two of the staff is paid by two individual donors at Rs 17,000 and Rs 15,000 respectively.

On 4 April a team from All Ceylon Baithul Fund (CBF) toured in Appelwatte and held a meeting with Masjid Bilal Foundation. They propose to do some rehabilitation activities and set a target to help 100 children in their education. This is a good move.

“We appreciate if any organization comes to visit Appelwatte and do even a little contribution in their own capacity to uplift slum life”, said Hilru Siddeeque.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Who was their MP before Jan 7th?
    He should have been interviewed.
    The residents should be screened for communicable disease.
    Mr Farook, get in touch with the Lions Club and/or The Rotary.
    I thought that Gota had eradicated all slums like Wanathamulla.

  • 8

    Isn’t it amazing that the hateful Islamist fringe only see “the miserable plight of the poverty stricken and illiterate Muslim slum dwellers in Colombo”.

    Since when did the Colombo poverty become an exclusiely “Muslim” problem Thambi?

    You earn Allah’s wrath for spreading such lies that are the stuff of the infidels!

  • 10

    At last someone has raised his voice on behalf of the shockingly poor
    Muslims in the slums of Colombo. What have the Fowzies, Hakeems, Azwers, Mowlanas, Faizer Mustaphas and others done in the past 2 decades. Of course, they made multi-millions from politics to give their daughters and sons in marriage into rich families. But those on whose votes they came to power hardly got even the crumbs.

    Latheef Farook has created the necessary consciousness on behalf of the extremely poor Muslims. Muslim society, outside the despicable political establishment, should organise itself and gradually help these people out of the abject poverty they are fated to endure. If this is done the Sinhalese and the Tamil political leadership in Colombo will be galvanised to help their own people. Of course, communalising poverty alleviation is not to be encouraged but, surely, it is better than allowing these poor to suffer infinitely.

    Well done Colombo Telegraph for offering publicity to a humane issue.


  • 12

    These days it is observed that Mosques are being air-conditioned and carpeted whereas poor Muslims are left to beg on the streets. We need to get our priorities right.

    What is the true meaning of Islam ? Not to build palaces and live lives of luxury and ostentation. Wealth is nothing but a trust given by Allah to test us and a means of helping the poor and down trodden. Prophets Sal life is full of such sayings and examples. Quran is full of such admonitions to the wealthy who are not heedful of the poor.

    Further Zakath and Sadaqa should encompass all not only Muslims. Quran speaks of Mankind not only Muslims. This is the solution for peace and co-existence. So live by the true spirit of Islam and spend of that which Allah has given us. Streamline the collection and distribution of Zakath and Sadaqah. A separate organization should be created for this purpose. Also look at the housing and educational needs of these people.

    “Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan. And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray.[But] who are heedless of their prayer -Those who make show [of their deeds]And withhold [simple] assistance.”
    Surat Al-Mā`ūn (The Small Kindnesses)

  • 6

    Long before the ills of “appe aanduwa” I have noticed in Jaffna town slums of Muslims living in overcrowded conditions and poverty.

    I believe one of the main reasons for this the lack of birth control among Muslims, may be because Islam prohibits it.

    Of course on top of this the Sinhala regimes since independence discriminate against all non-Sinhalese – Muslims and Tamils are the victims of such ill deeds of all the Sinhala dominated governments since independence.

    Muslim politicians have also been self centered ones concerned with filling their pockets and don’t care for the community.

    This is a vicious circle. Who and how will they break it?

    • 6

      “This is a vicious circle. Who and how will they break it?”
      Educate the them on birth control to break this vicious circle. The world cannot find space, produce food and provide other industrial amenities for exploding Muslim populations.

  • 8

    Latheef Farook:

    Do you believe that Allah created every thing.

    So, why don’t you believe that this is how Allah wants these slum dwellers to live ?

    That is Allah’s wish, why don’t you think so ?

  • 4

    I had suggested earlier in one my comments that Muslim politicians should be required to sign an oath that they will not accept office from the Government in power before they earn the vote of the Muslim Community to represent them in Parliament. That measure would have made it clear Muslim MPs were not for sale.

    The past history of Muslim MPs shows their sole purpose of holding office was to make money for themselves: not to serve the community. Take them one by one from the 1950’s; All of them up to now including those from current SLMC are the same.

    A note for Latheef Farooq: Start an organization for Muslim Charity in Sri Lanka. Please try to organize overseas visits to Muslim charitable organizations. Explain to them with statistics the pitiful state of the Community: that they need schools for the children; opportunities to be employed usefully and respectably, they need safe housing. With the funds collected buy land, build houses, start schools, teach vocations for useful and well paid jobs. Ten years from now the Muslim of Sri Lanka will not look to the Government for anything at all. In fact the other communities will turn to them for salvation. And let us resolve now to be generous at that time.

    I am ready to get help from the UAE for your efforts. There will be many other expatriates ready to help.

    at that time let us be , collect funds and

    • 6

      YOu talk about muslim politicians.

      Mohommad was a businessman who founded a religion.

      don’t you think he did not have business interests he founded the religion ?

      • 1

        Dear Jim Softy

        Please stop dipping your thoughts into the gutters before writing what you write about the Prophet of Islam. You are touching on the sensitivities of the Muslims and hurting our feelings. Please use your education, wisdom and maturity and share your view point in a language that is fit and decent. If you continue on this tangent you will earn the wrath of God Almighty. When God punishes it would be definitely severe. I trust you will take heed to this advice.
        Kind Regards

        • 0

          AHS, I also believe that it is time now Allah took the side of Muslims instead of militarily strengthning the West and the Jews.

        • 0

          My intention is not to hurt any one.

      • 2

        I will raise my hands in supplication and ask Allah to cleanse your black envious wicket heart. If you are truly of those who have been led astray He will bring you salvation. But if you are of those who are evil, I swea that He will give you the punishment you deserve. I do not wish to enter any discussion with you.

    • 0

      I think Applewatte and other slums whether the slum dwellers are Muslims or Tamils, it should be the responsible of the state and not of their particular community. All slum dwellers are citizens of this country and State should take appropriate action. But State also should avoid sending the slum dwellers to distant places as their livelihood depends on the proximity to the city of Colombo. We must recognise they are entitled to live in Colombo as much as the elite

  • 4

    Thank you, Lateef Farouk, for higlighting the problems facing poor Muslims in Colombo. Their plight of having to live in abject poverty is totally unacceptable. I hope the MP for the area will visit and bring in much needed facilities. If not, ask the unfortunate citizens to vote for an alternative candidate.

  • 9

    National Shoora Council
    Muslim Council of Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka Jama’t Islami
    Serendip Foundation for Relief and Development
    Association of Muslim Youths of Sailan
    Muslim Foundation for Culture Development
    Jamathus Salama
    Colombo District Masjids Federation
    Caring Hands
    World Assembly of Muslim Youth
    International Muslim Relief Organization
    All Ceylon Thowheed Jamath
    Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum
    Muslim Aid of Sri Lanka
    Al Muslimath
    Knowledge Box

    These 17 Organizations, which describe themselves as ‘leading Muslim Civil Societies’ , banded together to form a voluntary network titled ‘Helping Nepal – Sri Lankan Muslims Forum’ to provide humanitarian assistance to the earthquake victims in Nepal.

    It is unbelievable that while the tragic plight of the Nepalese victims appears to have touched the hearts of the members of so many Muslim Civil Society organizations spontaneously and propelled them to act, yet these very same Muslims remain unmoved by the plight of the many deprived members of their Community in our Motherland. Do these soft-hearted Muslims feel that issues like ‘Applewatte’ are the responsibility of the State ? Or, do they feel that espousing a cause such as the Nepalese earthquake victims would earn them more publicity and greater plaudits from the public ?

  • 3

    There’s a word that keeps recurring throughout this article – “Muslim.” The solution for this is better education and birth control. Families that are have no means but want a good life for their “wife and twelve children”need a wakeup call to reality.

    • 1

      Dear Max Payne Intheprick

      Please dont blame Muslims for renewing their Community by natural regeneration. The Sinhala Buddhist men if they get treatment for their erectile dysfunction they too will have normal reproduction to keep their community growing. At least, for time being their wives can seek interim help, and of course some fun, from the next door Tamil grocery man at 5 am, when their husbands are snoring away. Nothing out of the ordinary will be detected in the new borns as Sinhala / Tamil gene pool is the same.

  • 4

    Slum dwellers are around the city of Colombo are loyal voters of the UNP for a very long time now. It is not surprising that this has not changed as most of these residents enjoy Colombo mailing addresses and other privileges on property which does not belong to them. Evicting them is a loss of votes.

  • 3

    Except in the middle east where they get free money thanks to the thirst of oil for the west, muslims are living luxury lives.

    Else where most muslims are in poverty.

    Because, they have to pray five times a day, they have to starve one month every year. Besides they cannot earn to feed their big families as muslims reproduce as rats in order to spread their religion.

    • 0

      Sorry Jim, your being a softy is preventing you from contributing to the growth of the Sinhala race. But stop being a racist. Instead blaming other communities, there are effective remedies for erectile dyfunction. If that also does not work in your case, you can always arrange with the Tamil grocery man next door to do the needful. If you say the word, he will enthusiastically sweat it out to breed rats for your family too, but you can take the credit. Any children coming will not look any different as Sinhala /Tamil genes are the same.

  • 1

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  • 1

    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/

  • 2

    It is crazy, over here, all are blaming MR for everything under the sun! Even he would’nt have known he was this popular !!! IT looks that very soon the Colombo city will be a muslim city and all of us will end up covering ourselves in black!

  • 2

    Dear Mr Lateef Farook

    Do you realise that when you direct your sympathies towards a down trodden, disadvantaged group of people because they belong to your religion you are inviting us to feel less sympathetic towards them and be more concerned towards others in the same plight belonging to our religion?


  • 0

    Only Muslims live in slum? The Sinhalese and Tamils living in slums are OK?

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