Some Critical Notes on the Non-Tamil Identity of the Muslims of Sri Lanka, and on Tamil–Muslim Relations

A. R.M. Imtiyaz, S. R.H. Hoole
2011 South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies  
The ethnic civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese communities that ravaged Sri Lanka in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and which ended in May 2009 has attracted great interest from scholars of ethnic identity. Both the Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups employ language-Tamil and Sinhalese-as their primary ethnic marker to support their distinct ethnic formations. As for the Muslims, while the vast majority living in the north and east share many things with the Tamils
more » ... e including the Tamil language, Muslims in the south have divergent interests based more on trade and commerce. Under a predominantly southern leadership, the Muslims who speak the Tamil language with some borrowed Arabic words seek a social formation based on religion to win a distinct ethnic recognition-distinct from the Tamil ethnic group. The result has been a deep rift between the Muslims and the Tamils, making a permanent solution to Sri Lanka's problems elusive. These issues have been relatively under-researched. This study looks at Sri Lankan Muslim identity and the Muslims' relations with Tamils. In particular it interrogates some aspects of the identity discourse developed over the years by the south-centred Muslim elites who align with the Sinhalese political class. We argue that the Tamils' northern leadership has been insensitive to Muslims-that they have played into the hands of the Colombo government by persecuting Muslims in their midst on the pretext of responding to government-instigated violence among local Muslim youths.
doi:10.1080/00856401.2011.587504 fatcat:bm6fmbnqg5hmjjesv3b5boiapq