Posted on May 16th, 2015

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

The first Muslims of Sri Lanka were a small community who came from South India around the 16th century. They were descendants of Arab traders who had settled in South Indian coastline after marrying Tamil speaking women.

Throughout the 17th century, during the Dutch period of occupation of our coastal areas Muslims were ruthlessly persecuted by the Christian Dutch. In fact Muslims had to run to the Sinhala king at Kande-Uda-Rata or the Kandyan kingdom for safety among the Sinhala Buddhist people. It is recorded that King Senerat and King Rajasinghe II settled many displaced Muslims among the Sinhala people in the  Batticaloa area and the hill-country, to work as paddy farmers. Many were integrated into the Sinhala society. A few of our kings gave some Muslims duties in the kings administration.

There are several historic records such as those of Robert Knox which report that the Muslims were received favourably people of  the Sinhala Kingdom, gifting them with land.   Muslims adopted Sinhala lifestyle and mannerisms. In Galagedara near Mahanuwara (Kandy) there are two villages occupied almost exclusively by Muslims, surrounded by Sinhala villages, where the lands were donated to them by the Sinhala king. Present Katupalliya and Meera Makkam Masjid in Mahanuwara (Kandy) were built on land gifted by the king. The architcture of the Katupalliya is Udarata Sinhala in nature. The historic Ridee Vihare near  Kurunegala gave part of its land for a Muslim Masjid.

In the 1930s, Muslim boys in Rambukkana area  had their education in Buddhist monasteries, where they studied Sinhala language indigenous medicine. Most lived in Buddhist temples. It is noteworthy that opportunities were provided for these Muslim boys to recite their prayers and attend Quoranic classes, while living in the temple. Muslims made voluntary contributions towards the vihara and they participated in the Esala Perahera. It was customary then for the perahera drummers to voluntarily stop their drumming music when  passing Muslim mosques.

In recent decades, Muslims of Sri Lanka had preferential treatment in employment in the oil-rich Middle Eastern Muslim countries and thereby benefited substantially, as compared to the Sinhala housemaids who it is recorded continue to be exploited fully. Whenever Muslims held ministerial and other influential positions, it was customary for them to focus on helping their kind. This was clearly evident when Muslim Ministers for many years, ran the Education Ministry when Muslims received many benefits and preferential treatment in the area of education. The same was true when a Muslim minister was in charge of the Ports Authority when Muslims were accorded preferential treatment in port employment. These and several other extra benefits that this minority community members have been able to receive from Sinhala regimes, then and now, have made their lives far better than that of the large majority of Sinhala people.

Today, it is disappointing to see Muslim leaders, after securing so much from the majority Sinhala community, especially the Buddhists, who had all along provided them with hospitality and generosity, to have the audacity and ingratitude to claim autonomy in the lands that were given to them by our kings and governments, and to illegally encroach public property, a recent case being the Wilpattu.

The Muslims as a small minority settler community enjoy undue privileges that are not enjoyed by the large majority of Sinhala people who form the dominant and indigenous community of our nation. With all economic  benefits and preferential privileges, unemployment of Muslims is far lower in comparison to the Sinhala.

Muslims evidently are running well established and successful businesses with Sinhala majority as their customers. They are extensively involved in wealth-generating activities and employment especially related to tourism, travel agencies and foreign employment agencies. Household income of Muslims far exceeds those of ordinary Sinhala people. The per-capita income of the Muslim community is far higher than that of the Sinhala majority community.

Muslim religious holidays are public holidays in our country. They are represented by the green column in our national flag. There are no restrictions in our country for the construction of mosques in predominantly Sinhala areas. We all are aware that Muslim countries do not permit even the display of a Buddha image, let along building Vihares.

A good part of buildings and land in most urban areas in predominantly Sinhala areas are owned by Muslims. No comparable minorities in any major country in the world have been given such preposterous benefits, which are not rights but ridiculously high privileges enjoyed by the Muslims and Tamil settler minorities in our motherland. Since the privileges of one person can only be had at the expense of the rights of another, this shows that, in fact, it is the indigenous Sinhalas who account for some 74% of the population, who are discriminated against in Sri Lanka.

Unlike the Sinhala Buddhist community and their leadership, the large mass of those who belong to minority communities and their leadership, including religious minorities such as Catholics, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, have failed to think beyond their parochial view. Separatism and divisiveness appear to dominate their thoughts when it comes to their association with the country. This attitude of the minorities inevitably prevents them from developing a sense of belonging to the nation, and cultivating better relationships with the indigenous Sinhala Buddhists  – the dominant  majority community of the country from historic times.This parochial attitude prevents them from understanding and appreciating the worthy principles and values that characterize our nation, that give this  nation an identity of its own.

Building a stronger sense of national identity holds the key to achieving true reconciliation and social cohesion in our nation. Our nation needs to be united behind the nation’s values. Extremism in any form, including religious, is not in-keeping with the principles and values that form the basis of our nation. Attempting to implant in Sri Lanka, norms and behavior patterns of other countries especially in peculiar attire aimed at being exclusive and markedly different to the long established social and cultural norms of our nation has a socially divisive effect. Our leaders – political   and community leaders – especially Buddhist Bhikkhus who have been the traditional custodians of the nation’s culture and values should be in the forefront in confronting in a legitimate manner, any extremist and divisive trends and moves on the part of any community, particularly any non- indigenous community – cultural or religious, to prevent such attempts to undermine the long established socio-cultural norms of our nation. This is necessary in order to get the various non-indigenous communities to be a part of our nation and to help them develop a national perspective. They should be encouraged to actively participate in national events and be participants in the national development effort for the common benefit of all and not exclusively for the benefit of ones own community and religion.  As an initial step, the minority communities in our country should be active participants in celebrating national events such as the Independence Day, Republic Day, the Traditional New Year and so on, whereby they will have opportunities for intercultural dialogue and building of cordial and mutually beneficial relationships with the diverse communities that form our nation.

The type of Islam practiced by Muslims for centuries in Sri Lanka is Sufism.  Sufu related lifestyle of Muslims enabled harmonious relationship with other religions and communities among whom they were inhabiting. Maintaining such relationships was necessary for Muslims, because most of them are businessmen dealing with a market consisting mostly of Sinhala Buddhists and other non-Muslims.  Also, owing to their living among Buddhists most Muslims were inevitably influenced by the tolerant and sympathetic attitudes, and non-violent nature of Buddhists, and learnt to respect such social values of Sinhala Buddhists.

During the past few decades,however,  many young Sri Lankan Muslims found easy employment in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. Some were recipients of scholarships of Saudi Universities and were strongly exposed to the Saudi form of Islam – Wahhibism, which in many ways different to Islam as practiced for centuries in Sri Lanka. Young Muslims who have been exposed to extremist Saudi Islamic religious norms and been indoctrinated in madrasas and universities in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and who have read Wahhabi texts which are opposed to traditional practices of Sufi Muslims have turned out to be fanatics in propagating Wahhabism. Those who completed their studies in Saudi Arabia have returned to Sri Lanka and started to propagate the ideology of Wahhabism and in pursuit of their mission to expand their Wahhabi sphere of influence among Sufi Muslims and others, these Wahhabis have been resorting to intimidation and violence on many occasions. Their extremist and divisive approach is causing disharmony and violence within the Muslim community. Their suddenly changed attire and extremist attitudes and actions have caused increasing level of displeasure and annoyance to many. Instances of adoption of unethical means to  convert  non Muslims to Wahhabism have been reported.

Most problems faced by the Muslim community today appear to be their own making. They stem from foreign, particularly Saudi Arabian funding for fundamentalist Muslim groups.  Sri Lankan Muslims should be well aware of the fact that they are living in a non-Muslim country where Sinhala Buddhists form the mainstream dominant community. Extremist attitudes and actions on the part of Wahhabi Muslims are not compatible with the social values of this predominantly Buddhist country from historic times. Buddhist norms and principles form the foundation of this nation, among which non-violence, freedom, tolerance and compassion have been the cornerstones. Peaceful coexistence and accommodation of people of other faiths, religions and identities have been the norm in this country for centuries. This historic cultural tradition that extends to over 2200 years will be protected always. People will not hesitate to take legitimate and necessary steps when these cultural norms and principles of the nation are threatened or undermines. Steps will be taken to protect and preserve these noble and wholesome cultural traditions. It is necessary that all communities who consider this country their home, learn to develop respect for the social values and norms of this nation and refrain from pursuing policies and activities that would jeopardize the cultural norms that characterize this nation, and thereby undermine the quality of life and stability of our nation.

There is increased interest in the country today, to bring about national unity and therefore, divisive tendencies of any nature should not be  tolerated under any circumstances.  Such polarizing tendencies should be eliminated forthwith. All communities are duty bound to see that this happens for the benefit of everyone that calls Sri Lanka their motherland.


  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Mussies are ok when their population is 2% or 3%. Then they keep quiet, still the crafty
    at heart, so the natives think they are no harm. While showing that to society at large, they breed
    like xxxx and suddenly it’s 10%. Then they get some of these xxxx to be ministers, mps etc. etc.
    Crafty mussies always know who is going to be in the government and change sides. So the same xxxx
    are ministers which ever party in power.

    Meanwhile relentless breeding goes on unabated and they need more and more space for ever
    increasing xxx population. This is how they overwhlmed former Buddhist countries Iran, Pakesthan,
    Afganisthan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia. Breed like xxxx and outnumber the natives.

    Luckily for mussie xxxx Sinhalese and Tamils can’t stop killing/fighting each other. Then Sinhalese/Sinhalese
    fighting. What more the mussie xxxx can ask for? This is happy breeding grounds for mussie xxxx. Thanks to pea-brained,
    unpatriotic Sinhalese, and Tamils Sri Lanka becoming former Buddhist country. MR turned a blind eye when these mussies xxxx encroached on government land. What did the xxxx do to him? Backstabbed. Maru sira turning a blind to eye mussie xxxx expansion into Sinhalese areas. He must be thinking xxxx will treat him differently. He has shown so far that he is only a puppet of traitor chief gay boy ranil. So we cannot expect anything to safeguard our country from this mussie xxxx.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Endia’s pawns Tamils and Pakistan’s pawns Muslims are heading for a military confrontation in SL. Endia is DAMN AGAINST Pakistanis settling close to its Kanniyakumari nuke plant. Endia is also worried about GROWING Islam population in SL. NO introduction is needed for MODI!! He proved what he is made of in 2002 Gujarat.

    The important thing is for SL to ALLOW them to fight each other in SL. DON’T get involved in this Endia-Pakistan clash.

    That is the ONLY way to overcome this twin evil of LTTE and AQ. GREAT SL lover Paul Harris said similar things on HOW to defeat this TWIN evil. PIT them against each other.

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