From Waleel Aly to Greg Sheridan and Brendan O’Neill the foreign writers who have ventured to comment on the recent Islamic jihadist attacks in Sri Lanka have invariably considered the category “Muslim” to be a religious identity. This is not completely erroneous. But this reading obscures the fact that the term is also an ethnic concept when placed in juxtaposition with the terms Sinhalese (Sinhala) and Tamils. Within the island one must attend carefully to the context of usage. Not surprisingly, these foreign reporters are unaware of these nuances.
A Moor gentleman -as depicted in Wright’s Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon 1905
Those whom we refer today in Sri Lankan English as “Muslim” were described till about the 1930s as “Mohammedan” and/or “Moor.” The term “Moors’’ was a racial category rendering them different from the term “Malay” – so that the Malays were a separate category under “RACE” in the 1921 census and counted as distinct from the Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors, Europeans, Burghers & Eurasians, Veddas and “Others.” This differentiation is enshrined in the Sinhala speech insofar as Malays are identified as ja, javun or javo; while the Moors are described as yon or marakkala or thambiyo.
Filed under communal relations, disparagement, ethnicity, heritage, landscape wondrous, life stories, Muslims in Lanka, politIcal discourse, riots and pogroms, sri lankan society, unusual people, world events & processes
Editorial in the Sunday Observer of Sri Lanka, 17 March 2019, entitled “Christchurch and our own national experience”
Blood is being spilt with the claim of protecting one’s own ‘flesh and blood.’ It happened last Friday in Christchurch, in usually quiet New Zealand; it has happened in this country in sustained internal conflict over decades; and, it has happened all over the world throughout human history.
The gloom instilled by this litany is, however, dispelled by the bright success of societies in overcoming violence between communities, in managing conflict and, channelling social energies toward civilisational attainment. Happy are the societies that are warmly inclusive, that bravely embrace differentiation and unfamiliarity. Happy are those who celebrate co-existence and avoid or resolve the disruptions between groups, between people. Continue reading
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A year ago, the peaceful village was an unrecognisable hotbed of hate and violence and this street on which Samsudeen’s home now stands reconstructed, was filled with concrete and glass, debris from the attacks on Muslim-owned homes and businesses around town. The shoe merchant Samsudeen lives in a newly built house in the middle of town. The man in his 60s invited us into the bedroom cum living room of his modest home, and motioned to his wife to bring refreshments for his guests.
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In recently facing up to internet challenges and clarifying the term “chauvinism,” I proceeded at a general level and presented definitions within a comparative framework that brought the concepts of “racism” and “tribalism” into our framework of analysis. I now provide instances of ethno-religious confrontation from Sri Lankan history that illustrate this phenomenon.
Pics from Gerald Peiris 2017
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