15 April, 2024


Orientalists’ Perspective On Sri Lankan Moors

By Aboobacker Rameez

Aboobacker Rameez

This is in response to the recent article titled Moors of Sri Lanka are not perfectly peaceful appeared at Colombo Telegraph by Dr Imthiyaz, on whom, I have a great respect as an academic who largely deals with issues concerning ethnic conflicts and minority issues in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world.

However, I beg to disagree with his latest article in which he seriously lambasted the Muslims as being not a peaceful community in Sri Lanka. At the outset, let me stress that the Moors (also known as Muslims) have never joined with the separatist movement in Sri Lanka that fought against the government forces for many decades. Many people concede that had Muslims joined hands with the rebels fighting for the Ealam project in North East, things would have been different. The government at the early stages of the war was ill equipped to deal with the separatists. Muslims due to their refusal to ally with the paid dearly in terms of life and wealth, even this author has lost one of his close relatives in the attack of the separatists in 90s. It is also to be noted that the Southern Sinhalese also had two insurgencies in 70s and 80s with the frustrated youth as a result of mass unemployment and poverty gripping the country at that time.

Muslims, unlike their Tamil and Sinhalese counterparts, have never been involved in any insurgencies. The Muslims have always remained as a peaceful and harmonious community with a great deal of integration with other communities such as Sinhelese and Tamils in the Island.

Let’s now deal, in a constructive way, with some of the points Dr Imthiyaz raises in his article

1)    Is he trying to say that construction of new madrasas and mosques, and increase in the number of Muslim women choosing to cover their bodies modestly in what is called habaya and hijab (not necessarily nikab-face cover) are a proof of Muslims being not peaceful or offensive to other faiths or religion, thus causing conflicts or mayhem with other communities in Sri Lanka?

2)    If increase in the number of Mosques is a sign of Muslim fundamentalism in Sri Lanka, what is, then, of the Buddhist statues being erected in every nook and corner of the country, including the North and East, the predominant Tamil speaking areas in SL, especially in the post war scenario with no regard whatsoever to the legal dimension of the country.

3)    What is wrong in Muslim women choosing to dress modestly in habaya and hijab without exposing their flesh to others, except their husbands, as no one has the right, in my view, to object to the half-naked girls parading in the streets?

4)    Majority of mosques in Sri Lanka were built having obtained legal permission from the authorities concerned. Even such legally built mosques are now on the brink of collapse following attacks on them. No benevolence is shown by the authorities for fear of reprisals from the extremists elements and its patrons. Grandpass mosque is a living example of this reality.

5)    Rise of Wahhabism or Wahhabi movements in Sri Lanka is a cause of concern for not only Dr Imthiyas, but the extremist elements such as BBS, SR and its patrons as well. The fact that the Wahhabi movements are nurturing literal interpretation of Islam does not necessarily mean that they are stirring emotion or poisoning the minds of Muslims against other communities in Sri Lanka as the BBS and the likes do. Wahhabi movements never dare to go to the extent of destroying or replacing the Buddhist temples or Hindu Kovil with Mosques. Most importantly, Wahhabi movement is not a recent phenomenon in Sri Lanka as it gained foothold in 70s and 80s. Thus, attributing the rising madrasas, building mosques and women choosing to cover their bodies with habaya and hijab to the Wahhabi movement as a recent phenomenon is totally irrelevant. In addition, it is notable that there is an excellent relationship exists between the wahhabi government of Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, and such relationship benefits our government economically and diplomatically, even in the international arena such as Geneva. If the government of Sri Lanka or BBS is seriously concerned about the Wahhabi movement in Sri Lanka, it can possibly ask the government of Saudi Arabia for not sponsoring such organization in the country.

6)    He also noted that tensions are likely in a society where there is politicization of relations/symbols to win votes. What is the relevance of this statement into the context he is discussing? Wahhabi Movements in Sri Lanka are not advocating for political positions. They are more a secular minded people. They only promote religious dogmas as per their understanding. If at all there is any threat to the co- existence of various religious communities in Sri Lanka, I would argue, that it comes from Muslim (and other) political parties including the BBS in Sri Lanka, which we all know, are running on the emotions of the people to ensure their political clout in their electorates.

By and large, the piece of writing that he has contributed is a clear reflection of the Orientalist perspective towards the Others, Muslims, for that matter. There is no doubt, what so ever, that his article has added flavor to the stale curry that the BBS and its patrons have been preparing to poison the minds of the majority against Sri Lankan Muslims over the last few months. This kind of caricature of Muslims in general and the wahhabis in general would only reinvigorate the BBS and their ilk.

*The author, who is presently a PhD research scholar at National University of Singapore, is a lecturer in Sociology at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. He can be contacted at aramees2001@gmail.com.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    An excellent refutation of Imtiyaz’s rather baseless and tasteless article. In fact I found his reference to Moors as rather puzzling. Being a Muslim and Moor himself he should know the difference between a Moor and a Muslim. In Sri Lanka we have Malays, Borahs and members of the Memon community as well who are Muslims and increasingly adopting the Hejab and head scarf.

    I think he is out of touch with the pulse of Muslims in Sri Lanka today. We are a strong and vibrant community who are getting on well with other communities and living peaceful lives. We do not have to apologise to a handfull of facist driven by the likes of Gandasara.

    • 0

      Indeed an excellent reply.

      As the author pointed out Muslims, due to their refusal to ally with LTTE, paid dearly in terms of life and wealth. Currently in front of anti-Islamic activities in Sri Lanka Muslims are patiently and carefully taking steps thinking about the country. The result is they are loosing their Mosques and business places.

      But, it is very sad to see there is a considerable amount of venom injected into the Sinhala society by anti-Islamic elements through publications, internet, public gathering etc.

    • 0

      Well said, Safa.

      Dogs bark, caravans moves on !

  • 0

    Wahabism or Salafism is creating problems all over the world. they live on extremism and prove that Islam can be interpreted as a extremist cult.

    Is it the Islamic style, even at present, to the system of the country to islamize that particular society.

    that is why muslims want Hala system, Sharia law, Muslims fashion designs and hijab and niqab

    Following is a description how muslims did in the past in other countries.

    “The conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques occurred primarily during the life of Muhammad and continued during subsequent Islamic conquests and under historical Muslim rule. As a result, numerous Hindu temples, churches, synagogues, the Parthenon and Zoroastrian temples were converted into mosques. Several such mosques in Muslim or ex-Muslim lands have since reverted or become museums, such as the Hagia Sophia in Turkey and numerous mosques in Spain. “

  • 0

    Muslims, unlike their Tamil and Sinhalese counterparts, have never been involved in any insurgencies. The Muslims have always remained as a peaceful and harmonious community with a great deal of integration with other communities such as Sinhelese and Tamils in the Island.

    Yes you are 110% correct because sit on the wall and wait to jump in the winning side
    Every peace process Government used Muslims as a leverage to destroy the peace process
    Since late 1960,s the Muslims get benefit through ( education minister) government
    Even most of the Muslims speaks tamil and government kept a barrier between tamils and Muslims to move their agenda against tamil
    After 2009 the government doesn’t need the third element and now it is starting to eliminate the next ethnic group

  • 0


    Read this.

    “We are Sri Lankan Muslims – a unique ethnic group found only on this Island. Our lives and life-styles are inextricably linked to that of the other 90% of Sri Lankans. Over the centuries we have evolved a somewhat liberal outlook, but have not strayed away from the basic tenets of Islam. Our life-styles have emerged as being compatible with the more secular lifestyles of Muslim Countries such as Turkey and Malaysia / Indonesia rather than that of the rigid, spiritual life-style of Saudi Arabia. Let us try to keep it that way. Let us ensure that our way of living, while adhering broadly to the rules of Islam, empowers our young men and especially our young women to face the future with confidence and courage. We owe them that much. Bear in mind that a young Muslim mother living in a Muslim Country will be looked after by the State if anything unfortunate should happen to her husband. However, a young Muslim mother in Sri Lanka will at the end of the day have to fend for herself. Our community has to ensure that such unfortunate females are armed with the necessary educational and social skills that will enable her to lead an independent and respectable life in Sri Lanka. This could only be achieved by making it possible for every Muslim girl to realize her full potential as a human being.

    We should perceive the recent upsurge in anti-Muslim rhetoric as a timely warning that everything is not quite hunky-dory with regard to our standing among the other ethnic groups – specifically the Buddhists. We have to ask ourselves as to what exactly it is about our way of living that is causing concern and apprehension among our Buddhist brothers and sisters. We have to accept that fact that we may not like the answers to such questions, but should not shy away for this reason.

    Some of the key issues that have been raised in the comments of anti-Muslim bloggers are as follows.

    The Halaal Issue : The question of Muslims consuming permissible foods was never a problem to the Buddhists who couldn’t care less as to what the Muslims chose to eat or not to eat. The ACJU made the mistake of attempting to explain the concept of Halaal to all and sundry to defend it’s actions. Unfortunately what the ACJU failed to realize is that the main bone of contention was the perception that the consumption pattern of over 90% of Sri Lankans was being determined by the religious leaders of a minority group. If the ACJU had addressed this issue at the very beginning by stopping the Halaal Certification process completely, all the subsequent events that followed could have been avoided.

    The abaya issue : Once again we have to ask ourselves whether we are not seeing the woods for the trees. Is it the abaya per se or is it the alack abaya that is a matter of concern to the Buddhists. Is the dramatic increase in the number of black abaya – clad females creating a sense of unease among the other communities that there is a commensurate rise in Islamic Extremism in Sri Lanka – specially since the black abaya is strongly associated with fundamentalist brands of Islam often referred to as ‘Saudi’, ‘Salafi’ or ‘Wahabism’ by the mainstream media. A very simple method of overcoming this issue would be for our Muslim females to popularize the wearing of non- black abayas.

    What we should realize is that the above concerns together with others such as the ‘azan issue’ and the ‘Construction of Mosques Issue’ are perceived by our Buddhist compatriots as being promoted by Muslim extremists and creates the fear that Sri Lanka is gradually undergoing a process of ‘Islamification’. This sense of apprehension is sharpened further by the irrational fear that the Muslim population will outnumber the Buddhists in the not-so-distant future. Street name-boards emerging in Kattankudy with Arabic letters only worsens the situation for the Muslims of Sri Lanka.

    The Muslim Community has to take the steps necessary to negate and neutralize the concerns of the Buddhists before it becomes a serious issue like the Halaal problem. We need to voluntarily :

    [1] Stop the issuing of Halaal certificates & logo
    [2] Encourage the use of Non-Black Abayas
    [3] Cease completely the use of external Loudspeakers for Azan (Why continue with this practice which causes Non-Muslims to curse Islam 5 times a day ? In this time and age, would it be difficult for any pious Muslim to be aware of the times of prayer ?)
    [4] Ensure that all future construction of Mosques adhere strictly to the existing rules and regulations and avoid completely the practice of surreptitiously building Mosques by establishing first a Madrasa at that location.

    The extremists among us are going to resist any move on the part of the more secular Muslims to address the concerns of the Buddhists. However, we should bear in mind that the future of our children and their children depends on what we do now to ensure that the members of our Community do not have to experience any physical pain or mental trauma for being a Muslim in Sri Lanka.

    Taking the above (and other related ) steps voluntarily will only help our Community to be perceived as being sensitive to the concerns and apprehensions of the majority mommunity and moreover will empower the non-racist Sinhalese to speak-up on behalf of the Muslims if required. “

    • 0


      With candour, you have set out some of the very sensible options open to our Muslims in Sri Lanka. All well and good, but, if you have not already done so, see what Amarasiri has commented. He has hit the nail on the head. The pestilential BBS/SR are an odious manifestation of the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony in the forming and seeing that the Tamil community were already whacked, the targeting of the Muslim community was inevitable. The Christians too had better watch out. Never mind the mullahs, just watch the Bhikkhus of the BBS!

    • 0

      @Jim Softy,
      Halal certificate is issued free and is meant for Muslims who need to be aware that what they consume is within the laws of Sharia i.e legitimate and permissible and will not be held to account for same. There can be no compromise on that issue.

      Regarding color of the traditional Muslim dress which is usually black, is a color chosen to shun worldly attraction. Just as much as the Buddhist monks wear saffron robes to denote purity in mind, body and soul since saffron, extracted from a plant and is recognized the world over for its exceptional purifying and medicinal qualities. Wearing the Abaya and the Hijab in various hues and shades of color only attracts more attention and fuels competition. Furthermore, no one has the right to question the color of clothing that one is permitted to wear, and that freedom is still enshrined in the Human Rights Charter and our own Constitution. Muslim ladies in Sri Lanka prefer black, so it will be. Trying to appease others is not their objective, but to please God their Creator.

      Regarding use of Loudspeakers for ‘Call for Prayer’ is a privilege that has been given to Muslims in this country, and a privilege given should not be withdrawn without a valid reason. Or else, one by one all Muslim rights and privileges will slowly get eroded and leave them with nothing, specially knowing how the people are being aroused with communal feelings.

      Muslims need to pray in congregation as per the religious requirement and for such, Mosques are a necessity. Wherever a small Muslim community is established, a congregation hall will inevitably be used to conduct prayers, or if not, an open area which must be clean and pure, and free of dirt, like Galle Face green. But with effects of the weather, an enclosed place most suitable. These prayer areas take a new life with more and more regular prayer patterns, and eventually become regular Mosques. When these community children need religious education, (what Buddhists refer to as Daham Paasal – Madrasas in Arabic) are created to serve their needs. The education provided in these institutions are very basic, almost free and disciplined. Also it is confined to proper observation of religious practices. What harm does that create to a child’s mind?

      There are more important issues detrimental to society taking place in the country today, like the setting up of Casinos, increase in liquor sales outlets, enticing Turf Clubs, drug menace, escalating cost of living, poor getting poorer whilst the rich getting richer. Come let us sit and propose ways and means of solving those issues, rather than this petty stuff of what Muslims should wear, eat and how they should learn to live alongside with a majority community.

  • 0

    Excellent,keep it-up.
    While accusing Muslims for consuming meat,majority of Sri Lankans are killing animals,mammals,birds etc mercilessly,and eating even carcasses of dead beasts.
    all lies of BBS and SR are false accusations,no fact at all.(the scholarship exam of this year is to be attended by 329000 pupils,while Tamil medium students are 24%,so as claiming by BBS Sinhala population decreases is wrong).

  • 0

    By Aboobacker Rameez –

    “However, I beg to disagree with his latest article in which he seriously lambasted the Muslims as being not a peaceful community in Sri Lanka. At the outset, let me stress that the Moors (also known as Muslims) have never joined with the separatist movement in Sri Lanka that fought against the government forces for many decades.”

    What is the core problem in Sri Lanka?

    1. Buddhism

    2. Sinhala Buddhism

    3. Theravada Sinhala Buddhism

    4. Buddhist Monk Hegemony and Racism.

    Have you ever wondered why there are hardly any Tamil Buddhists? There are loads of Tamil Hindus.

    These problems will be there with or with or Muslims and Christians.The Buddhist Sinhala would be fighting the Tamil Hindus or Sinhala Hindus, or Sinhala Jains or Sinhala Animists.

    95% of the solution is identifying the problem- the problem is Sinhala Theravada Buddhism.

    BBS, Sinhala Ravya is trying to distract you.

    Nirvana = Nibbana = Extinction, the goal of Buddhism, that is against nature and evolution.

    • 0

      The core problem of SL and the world is Islam. Please visit the religion of peace website for facts and figures.

      BTW the fun in Egypt and Syria continues to kill men, women and children belonging to the religion of peace.

      • 0

        Hello Fuckyma

        Look after your core covered with shit

  • 0

    SL needs the expertise of Mossad to stop these Arabic people turning the peaceful island into another Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Yemen, Palestine, etc., etc.

    I’m sure Mossad will be more than happy to oblige.

    SL should also invite RSS of India to have a branch office in Colombo.

    I agree that we should allow Wahabis convert all SL Muslims to Wahabism. Then there is better justification for a peace operation.

  • 0

    The patient is almost in the ICU. What is needed is more treatment.
    What we have coming now is more doctors and lengthy verbal assaults – most whose credentials are questionable. There is a lull at the moment
    and the powerful Defence Secretary and the President, in that order, seem to be in the mood for peace now that Ms Pillay and CHOGM are on the way. Strike while the iron is hot is old wisdom. It should not be strike in this case – but engage peacefully.


  • 0

    Following the Battle of Badr, several defenseless Meccans were slaughtered by Muhammad’s companions. These included a man named Umayya and his young son, who were taken prisoner by a Muslim (a former friend who tried to protect them), but were then set upon by a mob before they could be escorted to safety:

    “I said (would you attack) my prisoners? But… The people formed a ring around us as I was protecting him. Then a man drew his sword and cut off his son’s foot so that he fell down and Umayya [the boy’s father] let out a cry such as I have never heard… They hewed them to pieces with their swords until they were dead.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 449)

    Another heartwarming account of Islamic chivalry during the same battle concerns Abu Jahl, one of Muhammad’s arch-enemies at Mecca. He met his death as he lay defenseless. In this case, two Muslims took the opportunity to administer the death blow:

    Mu’awwidh passed Abu Jahl as he lay there helpless and smote him until he left him at his last gasp. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 451)
    Another Muslim named Abdullah then came by and put his foot on Abu Jahl’s neck and taunted him before decapitating him:

    Then I cut off his head and brought it to the apostle saying, “This is the head of the enemy of Allah, Abu Jahl.”… I threw his head before the apostle and he gave thanks to Allah. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 451).

    Apparently these companions of Muhammad were unaware that “Islam is against” killing captives. But who could really blame them? Not only did the prophet of Islam praise them for the slaughter, he also ordered the death of another captive brought before him.

    Uqba bin Abu Mu’ayt pled for his life:

    “When the apostle ordered him to be killed, Uqba said, “But who will look after my children, O Muhammad?” [Muhammad’s reply] “Hell.” The man was put to death. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 458).

    • 0

      Oh, you are Lester in the form of a she-man :)

  • 0

    This is another paper by Imtiyaz Razak – Politicization of Buddhism and Electoral Politics in Sri Lanka.

    I am sure all the Sinhala-Buddhists in this forum will agree with him whole heatedly ;


  • 0

    This is what the god in the bible commands
    “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”
    1 Samuel 15:3

    Kill babies?

    Bible explicitly says to kill babies

    The Bhagavat Gita is about Krishna advising Arjuna to fight his cousins.

    World war 1 & 2.
    Vietnam war
    Slave trade
    Korean war
    Japanese invasion of China
    Hitler killing 6 million Jews
    French genocide of 1 million Algerians

    Where do Muslims come in the above?

  • 0

    Well said Rameez. Your article is commendable. Keep it up!

  • 0

    Dr, Imtiyas’ accusations are without valid or authentic arguments, for the sake of argument we assume that you’re heading is truthful same as what BBS claims, but your examples are irritating and baseless and it fails to prove your argument as well, just we go through one by one…..

    “The growth of Wahabists and Wahabist movements generously backed by the Middle Eastern countries and local agents”

    You know more than me what does it meant by “Wahabi/Salafi” what they are calling for and the influence what they have in muslim community in Srilanka, they are negligible minority and they are calling towards the spiritual facts only, if I am not wrong even they are refusing about Islamic system of politics as well…if you mean the so called wahabi in form of Taliban; then your example is excellent but unfortunately we don’t have such kind of wahabis in Srilanka..Even US embassy leaked cables says the same…

    “Madras as in the major corners of areas where Muslims pose predominance”
    It seems you may visit Afghanistan recently instead of Srilanka, can you tell us a single madrasa in Srilanka where they are teaching hatred about other religion/community/people/culture..Actually we have to promote the madrasas in srilankan in order to produce tolerable, inclusive, understanding community with high moral values….these are the Nobel values which anyone who attend madrasa could learn..

    “The growth of Muslim mosques on major roads and localities”

    Take your car from Clombo to Anuradhapura (Sorry you may haven’t visit Sri Lanka recently) there are 28 muslim mosques on main road all of them are more than 50years old….but yes muslims make new mosques not to show or confiscate the land but to perform their prayer as they do every day close to their village….by the way the consumed land to built for muslim mosque is much lesser when compare to Pansala or Kovils in Srilanaka (The recent Grandpass mosque also built only on 3 Purchases)

    “Steady rise of hijabis [muslim women wearing حجاب-a veil that covers the head and chest”

    This is non sense at all; do your grandmother/sisters walk on the street without covering her head and chest??? I never see muslim ladies in srilnka wearing such like that, hence our Sinhala ladies were also wearing same like that during the past decade, we change our dress code to mostly western style. The fact is muslim ladies are now more interact with the community they are doing higher studies, doing jobs….so do we want let the m to go back to kitchen….you may know in recent passed few muslims ladies were not allowed to study beyond GCE O/L, but now its improved they are studying interacting with community….

    In a nut shell I have not seen any matured minority like Srilankan muslims , even though they face several incitement for last two years their patience, diplomacy and the guidance of their leaders are amicable..

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