15 August, 2022


My Take On Tilak Samaranayaka’s Perception Of Sinhala Muslim Conflict

By Rifai Naleemi –

Dr. Rifai Naleemi

I was shocked and dismayed to read one-sided   article of Mr Tilak Samaranayaka in Colombo Telegraph on 5-5-13. The title article is “Understanding the causes of Sinhala Muslim conflict in SriLanka”.  With full respect to his economic expertise in the field I’m sorry that I had to disagree with some of the points he raised in his article. I’m sorry to say that this article is not written objectively.  He has indeed distorted some facts with mere prediction and assumptions. It looks that Tilak Samaranayaka has become one more victim of BBS’s false propaganda machine. A learned man like him should not write on the basis of mere prediction and more assumption without substantiated evidence.

I have full respect for Sinhalese race and I think that Sinhalese race is one of the unique and best human races on the face of this earth. I have had opportunities to interact and get on with many nationalities in my work place.  Compared to customs, mentalities, and behaviours of many ethnic groups Sri Lankan Sinhalese are unique in their politeness, kindness, sense of humour, good manners. As a Sri Lankan born and brought up among them I can tell through my personal interaction with them for more 27 years in Sri Lanka.   Even our long history itself witnesses that. This is the behaviours and manners of the majority of Sinhalese people and yet, a handful Sinhalese people are trying jolly ride with sense of superiority complex at the backdrop of defeating euphoria. They openly claim that they are indigenous people of Sri Lanka and all others are guest people or visitors. Hitler type mentality is inflicted to some of these extremists.

Yet, it is my own humble observation and I may be right or wrong. I do not know for sure how far my observation is fitting from anthropological, sociological and linguistic perspectives but Sinhalese people resemble Bangladesh people in calmness, politeness and appearance. I observe some similarities between people of the Bay of Bengal and Sri Lankan Sinhalese people in term of customs, language and way of life.  Any one who has been to Bangladesh villages will notice these similarities in features and calm characters.

I’m neither a historian in ethnography nor an anthropologist and yet, I have been living among these two communities. Since I arrived in London I have been living with many Bangladesh friends.  Some Bangladesh words look similar to Sinhalese language terms.  Their physical appearance and foods are very much similar to Sinhalese. For that reason I’m very much convinced that Sinhalese race originates and hails from that part of sub-continent: I’m not an authority on this but it is a mere observation of mine. Today with the advancement in DNA technology this genealogy could be firmly established sooner rather than later. I think some students of sociology should do some research on this line. I recall this to remind all Sri Lankan communities that one way or another we all come to this Island from India continent/some other part of the world.   Only Veddhas are the original inhabitants of Sri-Lanka in antiquity. So, we should not have superiority or inferiority complex at all.

Muslims have been living more than a thousand years in Sri Lanka among Singhalese people.   Please read (The Muslim of Sri Lanka: One thousand of Ethnic Harmony 900-1915) by Lorna Dewaraja. And read Singhalese historians who testify this.  The Singhalese people never harmed Muslims in Sri Lankaand indeed, it was Sinhalese kings and Sinhalese people who protected Muslims in the past.

I do not see any academic credit in your analysis of Sinhala Muslim relationship in Sri Lanka. You have one sided and biased story.  I wonder if you are BBS agent in Australia. Let me refute and repulse some of your argument in a simple language: you argue that Muslims “never participate in any social or community activity. Their participation in any sport in the country is practically non-existent” This is a pure lie because, Muslims have been fully participating in all aspects of socio-political life: How many Muslim policemen were killed by LTTE just because of they worked with Sinhalese Government. ?  How many Muslim officials of different government departments were killed by LTTE simply because they were with Sinhalese in their war with LTTE?  How many Muslim army officials were killed merely because they are with Sinhalese?

Please read the history of Police establishment in Sri Lanka you will know that first police to scarify his life for police service was a Muslim police man.  You say that we do not have any sport men in Muslim community. Look at the history sport in Srilanka in Rugby, Football, and in some other sports you will see a lot of leading Muslims persons in the past: It may be today we do not have enough sport men.   It is not because of lack of talent among Muslims but because of discrimination and racism: Do you think that Tamil and Muslim communities have no talent in Sport?  Of course, they have but they are not given opportunities. There are a lots of talented people but today racial and communal politics do all dirty work inSri Lanka:  Sport persons have not yet been given rightful opportunities and you know well politics of Sri Lanka.

Since the independence Sri Lankan politics dominated by Sinhalese with the majority in parliament   They could change laws and they could erect laws in their favour at any time: Look at this terrorism law that has been introduced recently: under this law any one could be arrested and detained for 90 days without access to lawyers. Of course, I agree with you that Sinhalese people were marginalised during the colonial period but now they are trying to marginalise all minority communities as they were treated by colonial powers: This is revengeful tactics and some of BBS members are leading this crafty politics.

I could tell you hundreds of incidents of racial discriminations that have been taken place since the Independence in Sri Lanka. Recent time it has doubled. In recent SLAS Examinations soon after 2009, all AGA are appointed by Singhalese candidates: as if there are no quailed candidates from Tamils and Muslims.  Do you know how many percentages of Muslims in public sector employment in Sri Lanka?  Less than 1.5% of entire Muslim population is in public sector employment SL. Why is this discrimination? Do not we have qualified people?  How many percentage of Muslim students get university admission?   I do not like to divide Sri-Lankans in communal liens at all. We all have to be united as Sri Lankans and strive and work hard   as one family to rebuild Sir Lanka.

You have mentioned about population growth and religious conversion:

These are two sensitive areas I have intended to write extensively on these two areas: I will do so in this News paper other times: These two areas need more time and more space to write. Yet, in short, it can be said that Sinhalese population growth is not in decline rather growth is slow compared to Muslim population: Why is that.  It is because the social lives of both communities are different to some extent. Sinhalese girls get marry late in life. Sinhalese girls go to work.  They do not have time to look after children at homes. Most of them go to higher education and end up delaying marriage until late thirties.  How could you expect them to have healthy babies if they marry late in life?

Whereas Muslims want their girls to marry early in life because of some religious reasons.  We want men go to work and ladies look after children at homes and it is responsibility of men to provide maintenance for wife and children. It is  the materialism that destroys Sinhalese population and it is materialism that encourages Sinhalese girls to live a  western way of life and destroys family life: Tell them to follow pure Buddhism and control the greed for this world then they could increase Sinhalese population.

More facts could be attributed to this debate: Unlike in the past, new generation of Sinhalese population now move into town and cities: Both newly married husbands and wives work. Therefore, they do no have time to look after more than one or two children.  Some do not want to have more than two children.  If this social change has taken place within your community why do you blame Muslims for that: It is your problem of your won community and nothing to do with Muslims?   it is a rapidly developing social change of your community: You should address this to your community.  It is unfair to blame Muslims because of the fault of Sinhalese girls: secondly, your people do more abortion than Muslims because of our faith we do not do it?

We believe that killing babies in wombs is not acceptable at all in any human sense except there is any real danger for the life of mothers. Moreover, the thirty years of war may have contributed slightly for the decline in Sinhalese population growth. These are some of the facts you should examine and gauge in your objective research and we Muslims do not try to deliberately increase our population as you assume.   Muslims feel that most of them live below poverty line and for that reasons they can not afford to increase population. If I do not offend you one more reason for Sinhalese population decrease may be that unlike other faith groups Sinhalese monks are not allowed to marry: This may in return reduce growth of population slightly in long runs.

It would not  be make a huge difference and yet, this could contribute to some extent to the  decline of population in your community.  Take for instance, if Sinhalese have a community of monks around two to three hundred thousands in total in Sri Lanka. I do not really know what the monk population in Srilanka is and yet I assume like that. If these two hundred thousand monks can not marry this could definitely decrease Sinhalese population to some extent. I hope someone do a field research on this subject with some practical and scientific evidence. I do not say that these monks should change their faith and traditions to increase Sinhalese population rather I’m saying these as some of the facts that contribute population increase.  Do not take me wrong for this and I’m just looking this problem from different perspectives.

Moreover, today more than 1.7 millions SriLankans work in the Middle and Europe. Most of house maids from Sir Lanka are from Sinhalese community and most of them are Sinhalese girls. They go to Middle East countries in the teenage life or in their adult age. Some of these girls work years in these countries and come back to Sir Lanka in their late twenties or thirties.  Some do not even marry them on the basis of social stigma and suspicion.

Moreover, poverty and alcoholism among Sinhalese community may be some of the other factors that contribute to this decline in Sinhalese population and yet to blame Muslims for this is not convincing at all.  Muslims maintain family unit in tact as a part of their religious faith not only in Sri Lanka but also over the world:  The family life is one of the unique institutions that Islam shapes and guides in a beautiful way no other system has any parallel to that.  That is why more western ladies accept Islam and become part of International Muslim community.  Indeed, Muslim family life wives are not obliged to provide maintenance for the children and whatever Muslim wives earn they could keep it for themselves and not obliged to spend on children or on families rather it is husband’s responsibilities to finically support families. This is one of the reasons that educated western girls prefer to marry Muslim boys. At least theatrically this is stipulated in Islamic law.

You have argued that this population growth of Muslims put the county into economic burden. I’m sorry that I had to disagree with you. Today, population growth is not a burden rather it is human capital.  If Sri Lanka could invest on this human capital in a good manner without any racial discrimination, this population growth of Sir Lanka could bring more wealth and prosperity to Sri Lanka more than any nation in Asia. Sri-Lankan is blessed with talents and skills. We have rich human resources in Asian countries and our human potentiality is better than any countries in Asia except a few states in India:  You are saying that this could be burden. Yours  is a pure pessimistic and one sided observation.  “To meet this future Muslim population growth, scarce resources will need to be allocated for food production, health services, housing, education, and various other social services. In addition, the increase in population will also need more land to build schools, to expand infrastructure facilities for trading and other activities”

This is the fallacy of your argument and this should be seen from a positive perspective in line of human resource development. Sri Lanka could become prosperous nation competing Singapore if our politicians have determination and political will to do so without any racial bias between communities.  That dream needs the unity of all communities in Sirlanka and also some good long term development projects and support of broad minded people.

I’m sorry that our economists in Sri Lanka have failed to advise our politicians in right directions in many projects and I’m sorry that we have do not have a good systems to train our youths in many modern professions in our country and this is the world of brain powers and skill forces. If Srilanka could guide and train next generation in modern professions that are in demand we could become of one of rich nations in Asia. This needs politically stable situation but BBS wants to destroy that and create more wars. They want to destroy economy of Muslims first and then they want to destroy Tamil heritage and then they want to destroy Christian heritage in order of priority. They are so narrow minded and so primitive in their thinking and mind setups.  They do not think that if they destroy Muslims properties or Muslim business that they are destroying national wealth and national asserts.

As an Economist you tell me do not they do this by their rhetoric?  Do not you see they encourage communal hatred?  Do not they have any civilised way to address their concerns in this modern way?  They have given bad impression and bad name for the entire Sinhalese community in the world?  This has already damaged the image of this government too locally and international.  It is shame that police, security and politicians have failed to take any actions. Yet, you seem to be pouring oil in burning wounds. Finally what can I say except Almighty God guides all of us into right path in our thinking, intention and actions?  I shall write on conversion next week.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Sri Lanka is a small beautiful country and we want to maintain that beautiful country side for generations. We do not need to increase our poplulation density similar to Bangaladesh or Palastine, that would destroy the natural beauty of the country and requires more resources to feed that population (e.g. food, health, etc.)

    In order to resolve this population boom, specially if one community continue to propagate rapidlly, the Sri Lankan government should introduce the population restriction laws similar to China. In which the government need to impose a maximum number of Children that one family unit can have. It should be applicable to all communities equally.

    • 1

      Sunil, I disagree that such measures are necessary but if that is what you feel- Well and fine! But it is not upto anyone to decide on a whim. This is a highly strategic discussion with very far reaching consequences which needs to be looked at on a national level from all angles, with all relevant experts on board. As you can see the people who have set off the sirens, don’t seem to have all the facts on the table (by the completely baseless and easily disprovable comments made by Samaranayake).

      You are missing the point entirely, in that – what BBS and other racist groups are saying is that this is a deliberate exansionist ploy of the muslims and it is a phenomenon world over. A ploy of Muslims to take over the country. This is all a load of BS. Dr Rifai in his article has given plenty of reasons to explain why this is not a sinister ploy and infact a processual outcome of our way of life and principles.

      I think the more sensible approach to the problem, is to sort out the social issues within the Sinhala community (the area where the monks should really apply their energy) or stop this shameless discussion.

    • 1

      Dear Sunil. Sri Lanka is beautiful country. I welcome the article Dr.Refai. If interpreted to Sinhalese much better. Human resource is much value asset & value never depreciate . Controlling the number is very old theory.

    • 0

      Family planning must be a Chinese whisper

    • 1

      I completely agree with you Sunil. Government must take steps to limit the children in a family to three, irrespective of ethnic difference. If it is not impose this kind of law under this regime no other government will do it. If not within next 50 year, anybody can witness communities kill each other for lands and other resources.

    • 0

      Forget about voluntary birth control. Muslims will never agree to that. What we need to do is peacefully repatriate the Muslims to whichever Islamic countries will take them. Do not forget, Muslims kicked Jews out of so many countries. Idi Amin kicked the Indians out of Uganda. So, why can’t the Sri Lankan Government start deporting Muslims? It is a solution that is definitey within reach.

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  • 1

    I’m not racist but suggest that majority Sinhale Buddhists have to learn a lot to live a good life. Don’t get me wrong, its a fact they are educated but no brain other wise this country wouldn’t be in this sorry situation.

  • 1

    Oh Sunil again a modaya, now China and Singapore are regretting their earlier decisions to restrict their population growth for they don’t have enough new manpower to man and sustain their economy as the existing workers are getting old and becoming less productive. Also there are less new workers to sustain the pension systems for the retiring old workers. In this situations, total elimination of any thing wouldn’t work, it should be well balanced for any thing to produce good results.

  • 1

    This is just another fairy tail base on the ongoing situation of the Sri Lanka. Muslims talk about religous freedom and other human rights till they become majority of the country after that they don’t consider anything but establishing Sharia Law and wiping out all non Abrahamic religions like Buddhism and Hindunism. Read and Understand what happened to non Abrahamic religions in Middle east. This site also report about burmese buddhist attacks on Muslim but no post is about muslim leaders declaring jihad war against burmese buddhist. According to some comment on other news sites Sri Lankan muslims want jihad against burmese buddhist too. Muslims are innocent as they are minority of the coutry. So we should never allow them to become majority of this country. Then any religious group can live in harmony including non extremist muslisms.

    • 1

      Another Racists, Islamaphobic comment.

      Why Muslims in Burma don’t have the right to defend them selves. After 83 the entire tamil community was thrust into the fold of the LTTE who waged ‘Jihad’ to fight for their rights.

      Fighting for ones rights is a universally excepted norm which only genocidal racists like you will deny

      Continue like this, some day we will have a repeat of 83 and just watch what happends, then don’t start poo pooing if you find that Muslims are waging ‘Jihad’ to defend themselve.

      You are just trying to find what ever excuse to flaunt your racist vandetta against Muslims.

      • 0

        If you want to bring “jihad” to Sri Lanka, you can try. The Sinhalese will have the full support of every Western government on the planet, as they fight you. No one is afraid of your fairy-tale jihad.

        • 1

          aha, there goes the war monger.

          So, like how we struggled for 30 years with the LTTE?

        • 1

          No one is trying to bring Jihad here apart from the BBS. I don’t know what your infatuation with the word ‘Jihad’ is but if we lead to another 83; there is a likelyhood of escalation of violence, thats all you need to interpret from my comment.

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  • 2

    The Muslim of Sri Lanka: One thousand of Ethnic Harmony 900-1915) by Lorna Dewaraja.
    I have read this book and even the title is not suitable for this book.obviously there should be a presence of an ethnic group to be in ethnic harmony.when muslim people became an ethnic group in this country?from 900,no they were not an ethnic group at that time and you should better mention why they came here,only for the business purpose and not to live in harmony with sinhalese people.once they had established as an ethnic group then you can mention it in that way.please refer to the indian pakistan citizenship act in 1949 and study who became the citizens from that act.,also you and professor lona dewaraja better read the book written by Robert Knox,in that book he mentioned about the muslim people as a type of Ahiguntika people without a shelter.what they were doing here was business and not living in harmony. the Vedda people has a very high place in our country history and they should get that respect properly,why don’t our people use a Vedda child to represent ethnic harmony,how come the tamils and muslims become more important than them.simply any one can see who these people are from the street name “Malabar” in most of our towns.The ethnic harmony begins when a group of people becomes an ethnic group,also you should better mention who belongs to this ethnic group- Malay people or Moor people ,or Hambayas or any other Muslims with an Indian origin or muslims with an Arabian or North African origin.From his point of view we all should consider all the business men come to this country has a purpose of living in harmony with sinhalese.And one day in future the the Indian Tamils in plantation -tea estates-will also say that ,we came here to live in harmony with sinhalese and not to work and a professor like lona dewaraja will write a book of history with a title of …. years of ethnic harmony with the aid of that ethnic group.also you should remember that sinhalese people are not an ethnic group,they are the first people in this country named as naaga,dewa,yaksha,mixed with indian people at various stages of the history.they built the culture of this country,a sinhalese is not the one by descent but the one who accepts and live in this culture.so we can see why there is alack of sinhalese in this country;who has a backbone to say that I’m a sinhalese or sinhala buddhist.

  • 1

    If you want to increase the Sinhala population, we should not send our Sinhala men and women to Middle East, ban dowry, ban caste, bring down the cost of living, let women be housewives instead of making them career-minded.

    It’s no good blaming Tamils and Muslims. And, letting our Buddhist monks should show the way by marrying and having children. It is controversial, but it is the way to be normal people.

  • 0

    It is not a problem that muslim people becomes the majority in this country only if they can tolerate the ideas or cultures of other ethnic groups or religions,but history proves what they are and the reality of the so called religion of peace,can anyone show me a muslim country or a country with a muslim majority-even between Sunni and Shia people living in the same country, believe in the same religion with a small difference,there are problems-How can they tolerate other religions when they cannot tolerate this small difference?.where the minority ethnic groups who believe in other religions don’t have problems and threats to their lives?do they live in harmony with other religious groups? muslims cannot tolerate the views of others,for example study the constitutions of Maldives(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion_in_the_Maldives) -what is the religious freedom of that country,what happens to the Chittagong Buddhists in Bangladesh-(study the current situation in Bangladesh -influences to establish a government under Sharia law-they want to kill the infidels-kāfir those who insult the Islam)in this one can point the situation in Burma,but it is a completely different situation ,if anyone wants to mention this please study the history of Burma and the colonial period what the British had done and the history of Rohingya muslims.

  • 1

    We all need to call a spade, a spade. What is amazing is that even 470 years after the the publication by Copernicus, Earth going round the Sun, even after space travel in the 20th century, STILL, in the USA, about 25% thinks, the Sun goes around the Earth. They are called Red Necks. I would like to call them Budu Bala Sena Monks of Mahanama.

    The Natives and Religions of Sri Lanka

    Sinhala Buddhists Monk Mahanama and Tamil Hindus and Racism

    1. A fraction of Sinhalese Buddhists now are racists. They were NOT racists to begin with. They were TAUGHT by Monk Mahanama to be racists with MYTHS written to Mahawamsa. This was perpetuated later on by other monks and other racists. In fact, DNA analysis of the so-called Sinhalese will show that they are not much different genetically from the Tamils of South India and Sri Lanka.


    2. Sri Lanka was originally Animist, Hindu and Jain with Veddah, Yakka and Naga people. Even Vijaya and the other immigrants were either Jain or Hindu. Even Lord Buddha’s parents were Hindu.

    3. Monk Mahanama and other monks used the kings, and the kings used the monks, to reinforce each other’s position and hegemony and promoted Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism. This has nothing to do with Buddhism. Like Arab Nationalism and Islam.

    4. Buddhism and racism became rallying points for the monks and kings. This monk-king axis has nothing to do with achieving Nirvana and rebirth, which are all MYTHS.

    Studies looking at the origin of the Sinhalese have been contradictory. Older studies suggest a predominantly Sri Lankan Tamil contribution followed by a significant Bengali contribution with no North Western Indian contribution,[42][43] while more modern studies point towards a predominantly Bengali contribution and a minor Tamil and North Western Indian (Gujarati & Punjabi) contribution.[44][45][46] Multiple studies have found no significant genetic difference between the Sinhalese and the three other major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Tamil, Indian Tamil and Sri Lankan Moor).[43][47][48][49][50][51]
    It is debatable whether the Sri Lankan population have genetic links to Far East Asian populations however due to their close links to North East India, there is a likelihood of some traces of East Asian genes.[52]

    Original Natives were Vedda, Naga and Yakka, who came from South India.
    Veddahs were the First to arrive in Lanka, like the Australian Aborigines and the Native America Indians, After they left East Africa about 70,000 years ago, Yes, the Veddahs are the Original Natives.

    Everybody else is an Illegal, Kallathonis.

    That includes the Subsequent Migration of Dravidian (Tamil) Hindus and Dravidian Tamil Janins from South India.
    That includes the Kalinga-Orissa-Bengali who were Hindus and Jains.
    Later Dravidian Tamils.
    Later Malayalees.
    Later Buddhists.

    Later Muslims, the ethnic stock is actually a mixture of Middle Eastern traders who were trading with Sri Lanka before the advent of Islam, called “Yonaka”, and these foreign traders who were mostly Middle Eastern converted to Islam, and got absorbed to both South India and Sri Lanka. So the gene pool of Sri Lanka Muslims contain Middle Easterners, South Indians, native Sinhala, and others. However, it is likely a large percentage of this pool is South Indian, but is not exclusively South Indian.

    Later Portuguese
    Later Dutch
    Later Malays
    Later English
    Later Estate Tamils.

    All these arrivals have one thing in common. Myths.
    However, one good thing happened. The genes became diversified, and created a more healthy population, instead of too many birth defects due to inbreeding.

    Myths of Rebirth, Nirvana, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory etc.

    The monks, priests and mullahs exploited the people, in order for them to stay in power and have hegemony over the people.

    In Sri Lanka, Monk Mahanama with his myths tat are being believed by many is the cause of the problem.
    It is really sad, that Lanka did not stay Native Veddah all these years.

    Religion is the Opium of the masses-Karl Marx. How true today.

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