On The Rights of Sri Lankan Muslims
Posted on April 25th, 2012

By Lakpura

Sri Lankan Muslims form around 7% of the Sri Lanka’s population. They are the second largest minority group, after the Tamils, and consist of two main groups – the Sri Lankan Moors who form the majority of Sri Lanka’s Muslims, and the Sri Lankan Malays who form a tiny minority of Sri Lanka’s Muslims. Recent events have left some commentators making sweeping claims that Muslims have no rights in Sri Lanka, that their rights are not protected by the Sri Lankan government , that they are persecuted in other parts of the world, and that “…even in Sri Lanka, canƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t catch a break.” However, is this really the case? Is it an accurate reflection of the position Sri Lankan Muslims find themselves in, in Sri Lanka?

Let us take a closer look…

In Sri Lanka:

– The Sri Lankan Muslim community is specially represented on the national flag by a green strip. Sri Lanka is the only non-majority Muslim country in the world to recognize its Muslim citizens on its national flag ( http://tinyurl.com/7az4mwt ).

– Muslims in Sri Lanka have complete freedom to assemble, practice their religion, build their mosques and madrassas, and propagate their religion. This freedom of religion is granted to all sects of Islam – the Sunnis, Shias, Sufis and other groups such as the Ahmadiyyas who are not recognized or are actively persecuted in several Muslim countries ( http://tinyurl.com/7ejea3n ) ( http://tinyurl.com/7yvj5fc ).

– The Government of Sri Lanka allows in Islamic preachers such as Zakir Naik (who are banned from the Britain and Canada on account of propagating extremism), and provides them with the freedom to assemble and organize conferences in the island ( http://tinyurl.com/84cvthl )

– The Muslims of Sri Lanka are supported by the Government of Sri Lanka through a special Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs which attends to their needs. This includes the the funding of several Arabic collages, paying the salary of many Madrassa teachers, and ensuring a similar syllabus is followed in the diverse Madrassas found throughout the island.

– The Government of Sri Lanka recognises Islamic Law. Muslim Personal Law is recognised in the country’s judicial system and applies to its Muslim citizen. This includes the right of Muslim men to legally have more than one wife.

– The Government of Sri Lanka has recognised the importance of Sharia for Muslims and has set up government-sanctioned Qazi courts in several Muslim areas to intervene in personal disputes between Muslims.

– The Government of Sri Lanka is officially involved in organizing Muslim pilgrimages to Mecca, including the appointment of several travel agents to arrange the pilgrimage and the use of the national airline SriLankan Airlines to facilitate the pilgrimage. The Government of Sri Lanka actively engages with the Government of Saudi Arabia to increase the quota allowed for Sri Lankan Muslim pilgrims, has built a government resthouse for Sri Lankan Muslim pilgrims and subsidies the pilgrimage itself ( http://tinyurl.com/7bh5g9p )

– The Government of Sri Lanka sponsors several daily Islamic programs, both on national television and on national radio ( http://tinyurl.com/7s4ulze )

– ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Muslims employed at Sri Lankan Government Institutions are allowed to leave work for Friday prayers. During Ramazan, the Government of Sri Lanka officially requests all private institutions in the island to afford this privilege to their Muslim workers as well ( http://tinyurl.com/7atqxuk ) and to provide salary advances.

– During the entire period of Ramazan, the Government of Sri Lanka officially broadcasts the Azan on national television and on national radio ( http://tinyurl.com/764zarz ) and organizes Ifthar ceremonies with its Muslim members of parliament.

– All mosques in Sri Lanka have the right to broadcast the Azan over loud speakers 365 days a year, even in areas where the majority of the residents are non-Muslims. During Ramazan, this right is extended past midnight.

– Muslims in Sri Lanka have the right to slaughter animals publicly, without licence, in the streets or in their backyards in accordance with their religious duty during Eid Ul Adha (the festival of sacrifice), despite objection from some non-Muslims.

– The Government of Sri Lanka’s official newspaper The Daily News affords a special section for Islam on its Monday edition ( http://tinyurl.com/896xg9a )

– The Government of Sri Lanka funds and runs several Islamic Government Schools, and provides to all Muslim students studying in other national schools the option of choosing Islam as their subject for Religion. It funds the curriculum and the printing of free textbooks ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ on Islam for Muslim students.

– The Government of Sri Lanka affords national holidays to the following days that are holy to the Muslims: Milad un-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad), Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha. This is more national holidays for Islam than is accorded by Saudi Arabia.

– The Muslims have their own political parties which take part in elections such as the SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress), and he ACMC (All Ceylon Muslim Congress) as well as many politicians in the two major political parties in the island, the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) and the United National Party (UNP). Muslim parties have been a part of successive Sri Lankan governments, and in the past have been king makers on several occasions.

– Several Muslim politicians have been voted into power from areas that have an overwhelmingly Sinhalese majority.

– The Government of Sri Lanka provides free cloth to school going Muslim girls so that they can wear a hijab if they so wish. This is in recognition of their religious obligations ( http://tinyurl.com/8ymokvg ) . Followers of other religions are not provided with this benefit.

– The Government of Sri Lanka officially recognizes Sharia/Islamic Banking and has incorporated this as a legitimate banking means into its national banking structure.

– Muslim men are allowed to wear the skull cap, and Muslim women are allowed to wear the hijab in photos for the national identity card in respect of their religious injunctions ( http://tinyurl.com/7snxtgj ). Non Muslims are disallowed from having any embellishments.

– Muslim men and women are free to wear their religious clothing in public and as employees in all Government Institutions. Their right to wear religious clothing at government institutions has been supported by the Sri Lankan courts.

– The Government of Sri Lanka provides special identity cards for members of the Muslim clergy to facilitate their travel through security checkpoints and ensure they receive government subsidies

– The Government of Sri Lanka has opened a Department of Arabic & Islamic Civilization in almost all national universities to provide information on Islamic and Arabic culture both to Sri Lankan and foreign students.

– The Government of Sri Lanka closely supports the right of the Palestinian people to an independent state. The current Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rakapaksa is the founder of the Sri Lanka Palestinian Friendship Association.

– Muslim owned businesses flourish in Sri Lanka, and are largely patronized by non-Muslims. The Sri Lankan Muslims play a central role in the country’s economy and business and are renowned for their acumen in this area.

– All pork-based medicines are not imported into the country by the Government of Sri Lanka,and are banned in government hospitals because they are not compatible with Islamic belief. This is despite the fact that often the non-pork based medicines are more expensive and the vast majority of patients are non-Muslims.

– The Government of Sri Lanka officially recognizes the Halal label and liaises with the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama for certification.

– The Muslims of Sri Lanka have a long history of peaceful co-existence with the majority Buddhists, since the arrival of the Islam to the island many centuries ago. Muslims fought against the colonials and were provided refuge by Buddhist kings in Central Sri Lanka when they were persecuted by the Portuguese in the maritime provinces. Muslims were provided land in Eastern Sri Lanka where they could live without persecution from the colonials. This relationship continues today with Buddhist monks actively involved in organizing Islamic classes for wayward Muslim children ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ( http://tinyurl.com/88ogawo ), and in the past Buddhist temples like the Ridi Vihara have donate land for the construction of a mosque ( http://tinyurl.com/7zb9pxk ) and supported the education of Muslim children.

– Sinhalese Buddhist researchers like Dr Lorna Dewaraja have spent great time and effort documenting the peaceful history between the Buddhists and Muslims of Sri Lanka ( http://tinyurl.com/7bndb3m )

– Buddhist sacred spaces such as Kataragama and Sri Pada provide space for Islam, especially Sufism ( http://tinyurl.com/7wzxrkz )

As can be seen, Sri Lanka looks after the collective and individual rights of Sri Lankan Muslims quite appreciably.



7 Responses to “On The Rights of Sri Lankan Muslims”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Good analysis. Hopefully Muslims will APPRECIATE these than demand more.

    However, it is only human to demand the EXTENSION of this list!!

    SL should have a mechanism to stop any more demands.

  2. AnuD Says:

    Muslims should think about how they treat other religions where Islam is the majority language.

    Muslims should think about how Muslims use the country’s own system to islamize the west and how they resist.

  3. Nesta Says:

    It is unacceptable when these Muslims who have been offered rights upon rights by Government of Sri Lanka – when they treat the minority sect – when they persecute the minority sect – just like Ahmadiyya. Yes. these Muslim employees in the Government sector do not give the right of Ahmadiyya, particularly – SLBC – not giving any opportunity to air the voice of Ahmadiyya through the Government owned radio Station SLBC. It is true, these Muslims suppress the rights of minorities and pass the FATHWA as they wish. Can’t blame the non-Muslim high authorities. I have studied well on this key matter.

  4. Ruq Says:

    Nesta, you are correct.
    According to Ahmadiyya sources, in 2009 or 2010, a private radio gave chance to this sect to say about Ramazan. few program went on air. The sources say, a Muslim employee of the said FM who arranged for ahmadiyyas. After a while, this employee was questioned by Director, Muslim Unit of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Service and warned the matter would be taken to the attention of a leading Muslim politician. Also this pious nature employee who knew well the doctrine of ahmadiyya was afraid, whether he would loose the job. Then on, this employee stopped ahmadiyya programs when contacted. In reality, Muslims misuse their rights against to those whose doctrine they don’t accept.
    Particularly Muslim Service of the SLBC is on top. Recently a news related to this was also published in The Sunday Lakbima News of 8th April 2012 titled:’Hate speech over Muslim service’.

  5. AnuD Says:

    [Can’t blame the non-Muslim high authorities. I have studied well on this key matter.


    I am also for promoting of a non-aggreisive and non violent sect of islam over other sects. Right now who is dominat are very expansionist and very self-centered. I am sure, politicians are a barrier.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Everyone should read this RACIST RANT by Marrena Refai published in Sri Lanka Guardian.

    Also not her insulting references to Singalese.


    I wish Lankaweb does not publish her racist rantings anymore.

  7. Mohamed Rafi Says:

    All of them are correct and It is a great analysis. Though these are right, some of ’em in current community in Sri Lanka feel that all of them should be canceled. That is one of example that current incident at Dambulla.

    Al Quran says about compulsion from the sphere of religion,

    “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256)

    Further explains,

    “We have truly shown him the way; he may be thankful or unthankful” (76:3)

    What have you brought in the world when you were born. There is no place promised when you were born in this world. So be peace wherever we are and whoever we are being with. Lets shake hand for nation. NOT for religious heaters and religious fighting.

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