26 June, 2022


OIC, Muslims & Sri Lanka

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

In the wake of United Nations Human Rights Commission’s resolution passed in Geneva, to which only four Muslim countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia and Uzbekistan) voted for Sri Lanka, and encouraged by that resolution, the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has issued a separate statement condemning Sri Lankan Government’s discriminatory laws against Muslims in the name of deradicalization and counter terrorism. That statement also notes with serious concern the arbitrary arrests and incarceration of Muslims under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and torturing them to force confession out of them for some imaginary allegations. On the face of it, OIC-IPHRC statement appears just a statement and authorities in Sri Lanka could ignore that as one more of its kind. However, if one understands how OIC works behind the scene to influence governments of its 57 members of which all but one, members of United Nations and 42 of them have Muslim majority population, Sri Lankan Government would be advised to take the statement little more seriously.

Until the current NGR-MR regime came to power, Sri Lanka’s relations with Muslim countries had been exceptionally cordial. There was an unwritten alliance of convenience between Muslims and governments in power, from which both stood to benefit. While governments benefited by winning markets for domestic exports in the Middle East and through financial assistance from affluent Arab nations by way of investments and aid, Muslim community at home benefited un turn from governments through special preferences extended to its members in the name of affirmative discrimination. The cordiality between Sri Lanka and Muslim world reached its apex during the 1970s, and the 1976 Non-Aligned Conference held in Colombo was its most ostentatious display. In fact, the treatment of Muslims at home became a show case for domestic governments to show to the world and defeat the spread of a vicious campaign during the civil war that Sri Lanka was ethnically discriminating its minorities.    

All that has changed now and for the first time, OIC, which is normally a sleepy organization weakened by internal dissensions, has acted in unison and issued a damning statement against Sri Lanka. What made it to do so? One common factor that is working behind the scene to bring international pressure on Sri Lankan government is the role of diaspora Sri Lankans. This factor cannot be ignored any more, and its strength is increasing by the year. Over seventy years of misgovernment has created a multiethnic and multireligious Sri Lankan diaspora community, consisting of Burghers, Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese. Quite a significant number among them have advanced professionally and financially, and are becoming influential and a force to be reckoned with in the politics of Western democracies. Their influence was recognized even by Sri Lankan diplomats when they accounted for Sri Lanka’s defeat at UNHCR in Geneva. The diaspora community wants their country of birth to prosper and regain its lost fame as a democratic, economically resourceful, highly literate and socially advanced country, but realizes that such recovery is not possible unless the country is cleansed of its corrosive politics buried in corruption, nepotism, ethno-religious chauvinism, protected by the military. All what the expatriates could do is to bring pressure from outside.

It was that pressure from a small but steadily growing Muslim diaspora, which worked behind the scene to make OIC act. Through OIC that pressure would be felt by governments of some influential Muslim countries, which belong to the same camp that got the UNHCR resolution passed in Geneva. Therefore, it is sheer short sightedness on the part of the current regime to jeopardize the cordial relations built over several decades with Muslim nations. The Muslim world is much larger and richer than Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia and Uzbekistan put together. Depending on China and Russia to veto any sanctions recommended under UNHCR resolution, and imposed by at least one or two Muslim countries is to court economic disaster. 

It is during times of adversity Muslim minorities feel the utility value of the concept of Muslim ummah. As the two professors, James Piscatori and Amin Saikal argue, umma is a “tool for a variety of social, and political actors” (Islam Beyond Borders: The Umma in World Politics, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019, p. 160) to achieve a variety of social and political ends. In general, when Muslim minorities are oppressed and made subject to intolerable discrimination and injustice, and when their own leaders stand helpless, they appeal as last resort for assistance from co-religionists outside their own countries. This is a unique institution in Islam that at times can serve limited purposes. To the oppressor this may look unpatriotic. However, if appealing to UNHCR is not patriotic then how could it be unpatriotic when some Muslim actors appeal to OIC and ask for assistance? It is this rationale that appears to have instigated diaspora Muslims to approach OIC.

Even then, solution to the Sri Lankan Muslim issue should be found within Sri Lanka. International pressure on government can be of limited assistance but not a permanent cure. The discontent against the regime is growing amongst all communities. That noisy protest arising spontaneously from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, while the Chinese VVIP’s cavalcade was passing through was one demonstration of that discontent. While the epidemic is playing havoc with peoples’ lives mostly because of government’s inconsistencies in adhering to expert advice, and with the national economy in tatters, the regime is desperately searching for tactics to hold on to power by deflecting criticisms against it. Picking the Easter carnage, which should not be condoned under any circumstance, for that purpose, and unwilling to expose to the public the full story behind that horror and identity of the “boss” who masterminded it, Muslims are scapegoated and portrayed as security threat. It is in this context that Minister Chamal Rajapaksa’s recent remark that without security no development is possible causes concern to the discerning. How can the minister guaranty security while his government deliberately creating space for insecurity to grow? Is that why the government is arresting Muslims on trumped up charges in the name of protecting national security? Is that why rehabilitation centres are cropping up to populate with Muslim suspects and to carry out the so called deradicalization program? If that is also insufficient, will the regime then look for another July 1983? A desperate regime can resort to desperate measures.

Given this disturbing scenario, how should Muslims make use of the rising discontent and join efforts by others to bring about a regime change? OIC statement may give some psychological satisfaction for a beleaguered community. Will that statement be translated into some form of action by Muslim countries is yet to be seen? However, with an impotent Muslim leadership at home, time has come for the community to think of the unthinkable and join hands with other citizens to work towards a better future – a subject a subject to be discussed in a separate piece.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 8

    The unwritten alliance of convenience between Muslims and governments in power has past its best before date!
    The time for the Muslim community to think of the ‘unthinkable’ and join hands with other citizens to work towards a better future may have come, however, the others who have been spurned by Muslims in the past may not be eager to grasp their hand.

  • 0

    ‘Jadapalana’ Government turned a blind eye to activities of Wahhabi Muslim extremists and fundamentalists in order to get the support of Muslim MPs to survive in the Parliament and the people in this country paid a huge price for their selfish behavior. Is AA expect this Government also to do the same in order to get support from Muslim countries and face another catastrophe?

  • 2

    Is he threatening with another bomb, I mean metaphorically.


  • 8

    “OIC-IPHRC statement appears just a statement “

    True, that is not just a statement; it is another similar statement of Chitanta- Yahapalanaya’s “HRCSL” statements – a Satanic Bible. (After saving Ranil’s jugglery in the world arena for years, Dr.Deepika abandoned the HRC SL.). Will a real human right organization respect this statement? This OIC, in 2018, when Hezbollah called for economic sanctions against investigating Muslim Ministers on the participation of 4/21, they responded and issued statement that they would bring sanctions if Hezbollah & Rishard were investigated. Hezbollah challenged that if North East merged, he would make Tamils’ blood river to flow. In this parliament that Hezbollah did not get an Honorary Minister ship or MP positions from Royals.
    Dr. Amir is Travelling on the wrong path. He is saying if it is not unpatriotic that Tamils going to UNHRC, then why is it unpatriotic that Muslims going to OIC. UNHRC is there as an international Organization for the benefit of all counties & communities, but OIC is there only to take care of Islam, with which Lankawe has no membership obligation.

    • 1

      “Dr. Amir is Travelling on the wrong path……………”

      I don’t usually agree with Dr. Ameer Ali, but I cannot really disagree with him this time.

      Based on the recent conduct of the OIC and its latest Statement about the treatment of Muslims in Sri Lanka, his message to the Sri Lankan Authorities is NOT to ignore the OIC , which should be appreciated.

      At the last UNHRC Resolution, only 4 out of the 12 Muslim countries voted in favour of Sri Lanka while 8 abstained. If not for the OIC intervention, all 12 Muslim countries would have certainly supported Sri Lanka.

      Now, the OIC back again with a message to Sri Lanka. It is time that Sri Lanka took the OIC seriously and stopped targeting the Muslims in Sri Lanka.

      If Sri Lanka decides to ignore the OIC, what if the OIC turned towards the Gulf Arab countries recommending some actions on Employment and Aid? If the Gulf countries decide to act on those recommendations, the consequences can be better imagined than explained.

      So, don’t Blame the Messenger but think about his Message seriously.

  • 3

    What is going it seems is that Hakeem, Nazeer, Harris wants to surrender to the government so playing all kind of nasty games against Tamils. But Rishard may have demands to join Royals, so being arrested every time to plug the votes, by passing his conditions.
    In 2018, it was Hakeem who organized the Muslim MPs’ & Ministers boycott against the Yahapalanaya government and by that devastating action to Yahapalanaya, he promoted Royal government to power in 2020. But Harris opportunistically used that boycott against the Kalmunai North upgrading. So Ranil gave up on Kalmunai North upgrading, while that proposal was his own government’s independent proposal without any ministerial influence or bribe payment. Now Rishard is again on investigation by Royals. What Harris and Hakeem did in 2018 has backfired on Muslims & and had given additional handle to Royal keep Rishard under control. While Hakeem playing backbencher roll in the new Royals order not to re-start Kumari’s case, Harris has been group up aging on the Kalmunai case. This time Harris is not talking about leaving government, but he is talking about voting with government though in this government only Rishard got arrested, (not for 4/21 investigation, but for political vengeance)

  • 4

    Millions are dying in neighboring India and he’s worried about an OIC and a few Muslims. Shows the complete disregard for human life that is non-muslim.

  • 10

    Islamic Nations Worst Place For Minorities and Religious Freedom: Reports
    By EurAsian Times Desk (December 12, 2018 )

    The Muslim world is going backwards – and the West isn’t to blame
    Dr. Azeem Ibrahim (Published: 11 March 2016)

    The Backward Muslim Countries: How to Move Forward?,
    Mohammad Mushfequr Rahman (On Dec 15, 2020)

    Thanks to the free education system Ameer Ali can read and write and get a job in Australia , instead being goat herder, Camel Jockey or Fishmen in A Muslim

    • 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

    • 5


      “Islamic Nations Worst Place For Minorities and Religious Freedom”

      Is there any special reason why you are focusing just on Islamic Nations alone?
      Can you not just investigate what has been happening in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, …………………………………. ….. ….

      • 1

        Native vedda,
        What makes you think I am a Hindu or Tamil ? What Indians do to each is none of my concern.

  • 5

    The so called Muslim world is very diverse. just like to so called Christian, Buddhist or Hindu world. Not some unique mono racial. mono ethnic and mono religious body, as this author is trying to make out. It is like everything else in the world. Very diverse made up of many races , ethnicities, linguistic groups and various Islamic sects like Sunni, Shia and many others. Some very extreme others more tolerant. In this so called Muslim world, they have often fought bitter wars against each other in the name of race, ethnicity, language or even against another Islamic sect within the same ethic group like the Sunni and Shira Arabs of Iraq. They are still fighting with each other in the name of all this. It is only these fake Arab, converted Dravidian Tamil South Indian origin Sri Lankan Muslims who have been brainwashed to think , that there is something called a unified Islamic world, when there is not .

    • 5

      This is because 99%of the Muslims in Sri Lanka belong to one ethnicity and origin , speak the same language at home and were traditionally following the same form of Islam, until this Arabization and Wahhabi fundamentalism took over . Therefore they think it is the same in the rest of the world but it is not. Even in neighbouring India, Muslims belonging to different ethnicities and sects will not easily mix or marry into each other. Original Islamic Pakistan broke in to Bangladesh and Pakistan in the name of race, language and ethnicity. Dr. Ameer Ali should know that in his new home Australia Arab, Turkish, South Asian, Somali , Bosnian and Albanian Muslims even if all are Sunni will attend different mosques and keep to their own communities. It is only these Tamil Sri Lankan Muslims who are trying very hard to build some sort of pan Islamic world identity, as they want to disassociate and distance themselves from their actual Tamil ethnic identity, as they feel it not of advantage to them .

      • 4

        Hence they cling to the term Moor that the Portuguese incorrectly gave to them , which only denoted to their religion and not their origin or ethnicity and claim miniscule amounts of Arab and other West Asian origin, that is only found amongst a few hundred families in small amounts as their sole and only origin and heritage and completely ignore their 1000 year old rich South India Tamil Dravidian Sufi Islamic heritage and origin. This is even done by this author. Has he really discussed about the real origins of the Sri Lankan Muslims? Never keep on harping about some imagined pan Islamic origin and the Islamic countries in Western and Central Asia. Given what they had done to the rest of the Tamils in the island in the name of Islam and this fake Arab origin and imagined pan Islamic unity, it will be very hard to build bridges or will they be eager to grasp the island’s Muslims hands. A hand that constantly betrays for petty benefits.
        his is even done by this author. Has he really discussed about the real origins of the Sri Lankan Muslims? Never keep on harping about some imagined pan Islamic origin and the Islamic countries in Western and Central Asia.

      • 1

        “This is because 99%of the Muslims in Sri Lanka belong to one ethnicity and origin………”

        Stop lecturing the Sri Lankan Muslims about ethnicity and blah blah.

        It is for the Muslims to decide what they should do. From the time they set foot in Sri Lanka, which was Ceylon then, they did what was best for the country which was appreciated by the major community.

        Not long ago, when the country was Threatened with Partition, the Muslims, particularly from the East, displayed their Loyalty to the country and stood by the country for which they paid a high price. The Muslims of the North Paid a Very High Price by being Mercilessly Chased out of the North at short Notice by the so-called freedom fighters, in October 1990. They are still Refugees more than 12 years After Separatism was defeated.

        While the majority community has Totally Forgotten the Vital contribution of the Muslims in Defeating Separatism and Bifurcation of the country, the Tamil Separatists Haven’t. That is why they keep haranguing the Muslims with their blah blah about ethnicity.

  • 1

    How well are Muslims treated in Muslim countries when they go against the government or express a different opinion to idiotic religious fanatics ?

    Gently, tolerantly, no torture, no killing, no prison without ​trials ?

    God is there , he sent a messenger with every good feeling humans can imagine.

    They follow him for 2000 years. Are they now an advanced civilization ?

    Are we a foolish and deluded species ?

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