ESTABLISHMENT OF MUSLIMS IN SRI LANKA
Posted on April 24th, 2019

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

The Muslims of Sri Lanka should be aware of some important historic facts about Sri Lanka, if they are serious on becoming a legitimate part of this great nation. First, they should realize that, they are a small settler community in this country amounting to about 9% of its total population. Prior to the 15th century, the sole interest of the few male Arab merchants who visited the country was trade and they were basically visitors to the country. Gradually with passage of time, they married local woman and began settling down in some coastal regions. It was only by the 15th century that the Muslims became an established small minority community of the country. Therefore, it is incorrect to claim that Muslims have been an established community in Sri Lanka for over 1000 years. There is reference to Muslims and their settlements in Sri Lanka only during the period immediately prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 or the early 16th century.  For all purposes, the history of Muslims in Sri Lanka as an established community extends to about 600 years and definitely not 1000 years as claimed. The on and off, arrival and departure of sea-faring male Arab merchants exclusively for trade purposes in earlier centuries cannot be regarded as the beginnings of the establishment of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.    

The country was referred to early times as Heladiva or Helabima which means the land or island of the Hela or Sinhala people. It was also referred to as Thunsinhalay (Ruhunu-Pihiti-Maya) or Sinhalay as it was called during the European colonial times (The Udarata Giwisuma or the Kandyan Convention of 1815 refers to the island as Sinhalay).

Muslims should be aware of the fact that this country has an unbroken written or recorded history that extends to a period exceeding 2500 years. According to this history, this country has been a Sinhala Buddhist nation since the introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd century BCE, in an unbroken manner for over 2200 years. The cultural norms and way of life of this country are an outcome of or are based on Buddhist principles.

The Muslims of Sri Lanka should be aware of the historic fact that Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka about 1000 years before the origin of Islam, in the year 247 BCE.  That is about three hundred years before the origin of Christianity.  It is noteworthy that at the time of origin of the Islam religion in the early 7th century (622 CE?). the Sinhala were a highly advanced community. Up to the 7th century, our country has had 97 Sinhela Buddhist kings ruling the island. 

The 1600 year long period from 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE, is referred to as the Golden era of our motherland, because of the vast overall development seen in the country, economically, socially and spiritually. Evidence of this prosperity is seen even today in the spectacular network of irrigation tanks and canals considered in modern times as engineering marvels, extensive farmland, and numerous Buddhist historic sites some of which have been designated by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. All these developments were the work of Sinhala Buddhists and took place in this country, way before Islam was ever known to the world. Besides, this development and prosperity was not attained through plunder, ruthless invasions and atrocities like in the case of communities that professed theistic religions such as Islam and Christianity. It is also noteworthy that this country had some of the greatest of literary works, paintings, sculpture and architecture, and historical chronicles written way before the Quoran and the Bible. The world renowned historic chronicle, laying out the written history fo this nation and of Buddhism in this country – the Mahawamsa was a product of this period.  

All these developments occurred way before the origin or Islam and some of it before the origin of Christianity. Our country was built on the Buddhist foundation for over two thousand years and the national character and identity of our motherland is Sinhela Buddhist. We were hospitable to permit non-indigenous settlers such as Tamils, Muslims and Moors in our motherland, with the expectation that they will integrate with our nation. They have no right whatsoever to seek autonomy or to claim territorial rights. They have no right to impose their religious or cultural norms and laws in our country which has its own characteristic national cultural norms and a well established rule of law. Muslims who live in Sri Lanka have no right to claim religious enclaves or regional autonomy in Sri Lanka. It is highly treacherous and ungrateful of settler communities to undermine the national culture, especially to destroy Sinhala Buddhist cultural sites, monuments and other historic and archeological treasures, and to impose Islamic norms such as the halal-halal stuff on the non-Muslims of Sri Lanka, and to propagate visible Islamic cultural norms in the open, that are damaging to the established visible cultural norms that characterize the of the vast mass of people of this country.       

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

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