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Non –Tamil identity of Muslims- 2

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

Muslims pray on the second day of Ramadan in Khartoum, Sudan August 2, 2011. Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and conducting sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. - REUTERS IMAGE
by A.R.M. Imtiyaz, Temple University, Philadelphia And S.R.H. Hoole, University of Jaffna
Courtesy: Journal of South Asian Studies

Jaffna-Centred Politics and Hindu Resurgence: Muslim Turncoats?

(August 03, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) In pre-independence years, as Dharmadasa shows, ‘ethnicity seemed to provide the strongest and most reliable base for political action’ for Sri Lankan nationalists. Accordingly in 1934 the All Ceylon Moors Association was formed, followed by the Sinhalese Maha Sabha in 1935, the Burgher Political Association in 1938, and the Ceylon Indian Congress in 1939.52 In this milieu, language and religion became prime symbols of identity. Tamils, too, particularly the land-owning Vellala caste,53 self-identified in this way. For instance in the 1952 parliamentary election for the seat of Kankesanthurai, Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s son-in-law S[ubiah] Nadesapillai of the UNP (often mistaken for S[omasundaram] Nadesan who was a senator in later years), was pitted against the emerging Tamil leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam of the new Federal Party. Chelvanayakam being a Christian, Nadesapillai’s slogan was ‘Curusa Vela?’ (meaning the Christian cross or the god Murugan’s spear). Chelvanayakam lost. We argue that this Hindu resurgence in Tamil politics would have made it more difficult for all those groups on the periphery of Tamil-speaking society to identify themselves fully as Tamil.

In all societies there are elements that claim an exclusiveness that threatens those on the periphery. As the Sinhalese started to assert themselves politically in the early pre-independence years, the Tamil leader G.G. Ponnambalam hit back by referring to them as ‘a hybrid mongrel race split off from the aboriginal Tamils and mixed with Aryan invaders’.54 The land-owning Vellalas at the top of the Sudra caste dominate public life in the Tamil zone and regard themselves as ‘high-caste’ and ‘elite’, a claim which Western scholars have uncritically accepted.55 Thus we have Ponnambalam asserting the right of the ‘pure’ Tamils to rule over others. (This is rather ironic, given the high-caste status of the Vellala community of which he was a part. However possibly because of Manu’s prohibition against crossing the waters, most Indians who migrated to Sri Lanka were Sudra.56) And this assertion surely must have confirmed the Muslims’ sense that they were right in not wanting to be counted as Tamils.

At the next polls in 1956 Chelvanayakam and his Federal Party, to the credit of Tamil Hindus, were returned with big local majorities. The central government’s colonisation plan for the Eastern Province, which had begun with the Gal Oya Scheme in 1951, settled Sinhalese in traditionally Tamil-speaking areas, so altering the demography there. As a consequence, Tamils and Muslims saw advantages in working together. Muslims rallied behind Chelvanayakam, and several became stalwarts of his party as members of parliament.

Yet even in these times of good relations between the Tamils and north-eastern Muslims, there were simmering problems. The Federal Party, centred in Jaffna, pitched to a monolithic community of ‘Tamil-speaking peoples’. Despite being strong supporters of the concept that the Tamil and Sinhalese peoples should be allowed to decide what was best for their respective areas, the party failed to go further and say that the same applied to the north and the east, and to Tamils and Muslims.

Until the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 14 May 1976 that called for the constitution of Tamil Eelam as a separate state, all Tamils and many Muslims in the region had continued to stand together.57 And a separate state was certainly not an option for the Estate Tamils or for Tamils based in the south. Upon passage of the Resolution the Ceylon Workers’ Congress immediately broke away from the Tamil United Front—afterwards renamed the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF)—with the result that the Tamil United Front ceased to represent half the Tamil people.

The priorities of Jaffna’s people were the TULF’s priorities—rights, university admission, public signs in Tamil in Colombo, etc. To the people of the relatively undeveloped east who rarely ventured elsewhere or sought admission to the universities, and who often knew Sinhalese, agriculture, roads, tanks and irrigation were far more important. Yet the party gave little recognition to these needs and, according to Eastern Province MP A. Thangathurai, forbade him from seeking favours for his constituents from government ministers— although Jaffna MPs were permitted to do so. M.M. Mustapha, who became Pottuvil’s Federal Party MP in 1956 and referred to Chelvanayakam fondly as the ‘Old Man’, protested that as an MP from an electorate with pressing agricultural needs, erasing Sinhalese letters from vehicle number plates was not what his constituents expected from him.58 Nor could the Jaffna leadership carry the Muslims and hill-country Tamils with it. Even its hold over Eastern Tamils was tenuous. This tendency to take non-Jaffna people for granted reached its most vulgar extreme in 2009, when overseas Tamils tied to the Jaffna leadership, who were demonstrating to save the Tamil Tigers, refused to say a word about the dire plight of the people of the Vanni who had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE.59 Not surprisingly therefore, given Sri Lanka’s ‘outbidding’ style of populist electoral politics, several Muslim MPs crossed the floor to sit on the government benches despite being elected on Federal Party tickets. Although Tamil MPs did the same, Tamil opinion nevertheless used this episode to caricature the Muslims as untrustworthy turncoats (in Tamil, thoppi piratty, i.e., hat-changers). Thus we see Muslim MPs Gate Mudaliyaar M.S. Kaariyappar (MP for Kalmunai) and M.M. Mustapha (MP for Nintavur), both elected on the Federal Party ticket in 1956, crossing over to the government. The strains within the broader Tamil community were further exacerbated over the idea of a university. By 1960 the Federal Party had formulated the concept of a ‘Tamil University’ in Trincomalee, neutrally located between the Northern and Eastern Provinces, as one of its major planks. It entered the 1965–70 government of Dudley Senanayake as a partner, based on an agreement on District Councils. The university would soon be established. Thereupon G.G. Ponnambalam of the Tamil Congress (now reduced to a small party since the emergence of the Federal Party), which was also a coalition partner, asked for a Hindu University in the Tamil-dominated north which would result in the exclusion of Muslims and Eastern Tamils. It was the cue for the government to do nothing.

With Chelvanayakam’s death in 1977 and the increasingly repressive nature of the Sri Lankan state, Tamil militants gradually became the dominant force in Tamil politics. The LTTE murdered Chelvanayakam’s successor, A. Amirtha-lingam, in 1989 and wiped out other rival movements. By 1990 the LTTE was the only significant militant group. But it would be wrong to attribute the political shift that followed solely to the LTTE. Recruited generally from the depressed castes and largely uneducated, the Tigers were dependent on Vellala intellectuals for administrative support and the latter, in turn, were happy to exercise power through them. Thus university vice-chancellors and professors made fiery speeches, encouraged and deducted ‘contributions’ from salaries— ostensibly for charities, but destined for the Tamil Tigers—and drafted petitions and wrote articles praising Tiger policies. For example the University of Jaffna’s vice-chancellor Prof. A. Thurairajah asked its English Unit to allocate staff for the translation work of the Tigers.60 In exchange they were given exit passes from Jaffna for their children, although among the general population, people of military age were prohibited from leaving. Also the intellectuals who sold out to the Tigers were given a free hand to pursue their private agendas. Thus a Vellala suspended from the university for ‘examination offences’ initially joined the EPRLF (Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front), and became its spokesman at government talks. But when the EPRLF was almost wiped out by the LTTE, he quickly became an ardent Tamil Tiger supporter and began singing their praises, later running a Tiger website which pushed a sharply ethnic line. There was a tendency to argue that Christians must accept that a Tamil is a Hindu;61 and he was not alone in that view. Following the appointment in 2006 of a Christian to the vice-chancellorship of the University of Jaffna on the vote of the university’s Council of Tamils in Sri Lanka, a group of Jaffna intellectuals editorialised in a British Tamil newspaper that:

‘[T]here are a few Christians who are unable to reconcile their minds to the fact that they had deserted the religion of their forefathers. This grievance they carry against the whole commu-nity. The Hoole brothers,62 [and] Lakshman Kadirgamar. . .be-long to this category. As for Ratnajeevan Hoole as Vice-Chancellor of Jaffna University, this much has to be said. He should not be allowed to roam free in Jaffna’s Tamil Hindu society, particularly in the university campus where there is even a Saiva temple.63

Note the allusion to the polluting effect of those outside the caste system entering Saiva temples. This is of a piece with the new Tamil nationalist practice of hosting Thai Pongal (a festival originally unique to the Tamil Vellala Hindus) in mid January and presenting it instead as a pan-Tamil festival replete with symbols of sun worship and auspicious times.64 Yet another man ingratiated himself by becoming the Tiger leader’s biographer and arguing that the expulsion of Muslims from Jaffna was not genocide.65

Today, following the seeming demise of the Tigers, in a twist of irony the Tamil society that caricatured the Muslims as turncoats is itself full of turncoats. The University of Jaffna, both staff and students, are now largely with the government. A former dean of Arts, who kept his independence during the time of the Tigers, stated: ‘All those who supported the Tigers are now against them. Poor Prabhakaran made a great mistake in trusting this lot’.66

Hinduisation was not the only feature of the changing nature of Tamil politics during these years however. From the late 1950s the Federal Party became avowedly pro-Israeli because many Tamils saw themselves to be like ‘the Jews’, clever but put down, and capable of setting up their own state. The Manavar Peravai or youth wing of the Federal Party was in close contact with the Israeli embassy in Colombo. As the Left-leaning government moved towards severing contacts with Israel in the 1970s, Federal Party MPs spoke out against the move. This too made it difficult for Muslims to be on the Tamil bandwagon. It is interesting, however, to record that even as the leaders of the Muslims were openly working with the Sinhalese political establishment and politicians, the latter, in their war against the Tigers, sought help from Mossad and other Israeli agencies, which led to their training troops and introducing rather cruel methods of punishing Tamil civilians.67

Thus besides the elite politics of the Muslims’ southern leadership, several other factors were at play behind the drive for a separate Muslim identity. Having taken note of these, this essay will now examine the evolution of the fraught relationship between the two Tamil-speaking communities of the north and east—the Tamils and the largely Tamil-speaking Muslims.

Tamil–Muslim Relations: Hatred Breeds Hatred

The efforts of the Muslim elites to construct an identity based on Islam did not trouble the Sinhalese political establishment in any way, since the activities of the Muslim political establishment, largely led by south-centred elites, often supported the Sinhalese political leaders and government in Colombo. Notably it did so in the war that crushed the Tamil Tigers’ three-decades-old violent struggle to secure a separate state.68 The key reason for the Muslim elites’ good relations with the Sinhalese political class, apart from their commercial interests, is a fear for their physical security in the island.69

Muslim leaders are well aware that their community could suffer if ‘unfriendly’ attitudes developed towards them among Sinhalese leaders. The latter could lobby to deny state support for their business activities; or they could possibly unleash violence against them. Accordingly ‘it was Muslim leaders like Sir Razik Fareed and Badiuddin Mahmud who fervently campaigned for the ‘‘Sinhalese Only’’ policy70 which sought to make Sinhalese the sole official language of the country, replacing English’.71 Again Badiuddin’s period at the helm of the Ministry of Education bred much ill-will against Muslims among Tamils. His implementation of the ‘standardisation scheme’ for university admission from 1970 onwards, which set much higher marks for university admission for Tamils on the grounds that they were ‘advantaged’ (as if a top Sinhalese civil servant’s son at Colombo’s elite Royal College is disadvantaged in life compared to a Tamil tea-plucker’s child from an estate school) sparked the formation of the Manavar Peravai, from which many leaders of the armed Tamil uprising came. However even some Sinhalese, for whom Badiuddin helped clear an educational path, remained resentful of Muslims, possibly because, ironically, a few rich southern Muslims also benefited from the new system of university entry. But this was poor recompense for the damage the collaborative policy did to the Muslim community as a whole. Increasingly the policy came to be caricatured as the Muslim elites systematically aiding Sinhala dominance of the Tamils, even those north-eastern Muslims who were too poor to seek university admission. Yet appeasement by Muslim political leaders continued. As Izeth Hussein remarks, ‘during the State terrorism of 1983 a Muslim Minister disgraced Islam by unleashing his thugs in central Colombo against the Tamils’72 and later the Muslims of the Eastern Province ‘got together with the STF [the murderous elite special task force of the military] in terrorist exploits against the Tamils there’.73

Gradually the Muslims were pushed into opposing a unified North East Province or an ethnic Tamil state aspired to by Tamil nationalists. Moreover, the Muslim leaders’ co-operation with the Sinhalese ruling political class increased tensions at the level of the masses between the two Tamil-speaking communities. This further entrenched Tamil perceptions that the Muslims were untrustworthy. In turn Muslim leaders, particularly the south-centred politicians, articulated a position against the Tamil struggle for political autonomy. One key rationale for the formation of the SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) in 1986 may be that the politics of accommodation engineered by southern Muslim elites had left the Muslims of the Tamil-speaking north-eastern region vulnerable to nationalist Tamil reprisals.

But the formation of parties based on symbolic identities in non-liberal societies deeply divided along ethnic lines is not likely to reduce tensions; indeed, it is more likely to sharpen them. This has been well proven by the case of the SLMC which is led by M.H.M. Ashraff, once an ardent supporter of the ethnic Tamil state and an accomplished writer and poet in the Tamil language.74 As suggested above, the poorer and marginalised Tamil-speaking Muslims of the east seem to have believed that the formation of the SLMC would ease their concerns and bring peace and stability to their region.75 In point of fact, though, the rising popularity of the SLMC among eastern Muslims, parti-cularly poor farmers worried by the direction the militant Tamil polity was taking, tells a different story. Tamil militants targeted both ordinary Muslims and the new political agent of the North East Province Muslims; they intimidated the eastern Muslims and outlawed the activities of the SLMC and put Ashraff on their hit list.76 This development destructively challenged the foundation of Tamil–Muslim relations. The SLMC responded swiftly and vigorously by mobilising religious symbols:

If the LTTE is killing us, if the LTTE is leaving us out of our homes, simply because we happen to be Muslims, simply because we say ‘La ilaha illallahu, Mammmdur-Rasoolullah’ because of our belief in Allah and Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). . .if that is the only reason, it is the commandment of the Holy Quran that we should declare Jihad against them and kill every LTTEr.

We shall now intend to slaughter every LTTEr including Mr. Prabhakaran. In a personal note, I will be the happiest if I can die in battle at the time of slitting the neck of this bloody Prabhakaran.77

What this rhetoric shows is that the party saw Islam as its best chance of making electoral gains. In this it was sadly mistaken.

On 3 August 1990, 103 Muslim men from Kattankudy, the key commercial hub of the Eastern Province Muslims, were killed by the LTTE at prayer time inside their mosque.78 Immediately afterwards, the property and possessions of Muslims in the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts of the Eastern Province were confiscated. In October 1990 the LTTE violently expelled Muslims from pockets occupied by them in the Northern Province, beginning with the Muslims of Chavakacheri.79 On 30 October 1990, quite unexpectedly, the LTTE announced over loudspeakers in the streets of the Muslim settlements in the Northern Province that all Muslims were required to vacate their homes within 48 hours, leaving all their valuables behind, or face death. In Jaffna town the time given was only two hours.80 The Hindu’s longstanding Colombo correspondent, Nirupama Subramaniam, ascribed this incident directly to the Muslims’ adoption of an Islamic identity, asserting:

The incidents drove a wedge between Tamils and Muslims. The Muslims—who are linguistically Tamil—decided to strengthen a separate religion-based political identity rather than continue to affiliate themselves with Hindu and Christian Tamils on the basis of language. . .the Tigers. . .are treating them the same way as [Sinhalese] politicians treated Tamils.81

Ethnic cleansing was the last straw. Now few bridges connected the Muslims to the Tamils. Even today the chances of reconciliation are small. However Subramaniam overstates the Islamic angle. Equally relations were destroyed by the Muslim leaders’ collaboration with pro-Sinhala governments in Colombo, and the decision by some Muslim youths to throw in their lot with the state security forces as low-level cadres and informants. We have already described the attack on the Tamils of Karaitivu in April 1985 at the instigation of President Jayawardene and a Muslim minister in his government based in Colombo. In the wake of this event, Muslim youths, apparently with the support of the security forces, went on a rampage, killing several people and burning hundreds of houses in Karaitivu and nearby Samanthurai.82 More-over, according to the International Crisis Group, ‘Some Muslims were armed by the government for their own protection but they were also involved in vigilante action against neighbouring Tamils, provoking more reprisals’.83


In heterogeneous societies, identity markers such as language, ancestry and heritage bolster a group’s sense of belonging. These markers are often associated with symbols, which can be used to appeal to values, refer to ideas, stir emotions, and stimulate action.84 Symbols thus become tools for politicians and ethnic leaders.85 Ethnic elites can construct new identities or deploy interpretations of them to consolidate their community’s position in a time of crisis.

This study argues that the Muslim elites’ efforts to construct a distinct identity for their community were mainly a direct result of the exclusive nature of Tamil politics. Ironically, though, these efforts were mainly counter-productive. Identity markers such as a distinct race of Arab origin, and a mixed language that Muslims called Arab-Tamil, or Arabic Tamil, or Muslim Tamil, did not help the quest for a distinct non-Tamil identity for the Tamil-speaking Muslims. More particularly it demonstrates that the Muslim elites’ endeavours to form a non-Tamil social formation based on the Islamic faith also did not offer legitimate ethnic recognition to the Muslims. Rather, they helped configure the Muslims as a narrow religious group rather than empowering them as an ethnic group. Religion is a powerful symbolic marker, but it cannot serve as the primary ethnic boundary-marker in societies deeply divided along ethnic lines.

Muslims may not be a community distinct from the Tamils, but they have some special problems pertaining to their security.86 They expect these issues to be discussed at the negotiating table by their own representatives with the major stakeholders in the context of the core issues thrown up by the recent civil war. Viable measures backed by political will on the part of the government and the Tamils in the northeast need to be taken to redress Muslim grievances without delay. Tamil support for Muslim security and peace could open a new chapter in Tamil–Muslim relations. Encouragingly, President Rajapakse told the BBC in January 2010: ‘From today onward, I am the president of everyone, whether they voted for me or not’.87 But the question remains: will his Sinhala political establishment deliver justice to the Tamils and the Muslims?

Elite-driven ethnic identities are a product of human actions and choices. Elites can employ any markers and symbols to win and consolidate power. Equally such strategies can help motivate the socially- and economically-distressed masses to seek social changes outside the regular democratic channels, as happened in Sri Lanka.

Please click here to read part one of this series 


52 K.N.O. Dharmadasa, Language, Religion and Ethic Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese Nationalism in Sri Lanka (Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1992), p.246.
53 In an arrogant display of caste hegemony, Tamil-language school books, the same books used by Muslims and members of other castes, teach that only the Vellalas truly live. This is done through Kural–1033, which in G.U. Pope’s translation reads: ‘Who ploughing eat their food, they truly live: The rest to others bend subservient, eating what they give’ [http://tamilweek.com/news-features/archives/1889, accessed 26 Jan. 2010].
54 The Hindu Organ (1 and 19 June 1939) cited in Sebastian Rasalingam, ‘Tamils Must Ask for What is Reasonable and Accept Their Role in the Conflict’, The Island (27 Feb. 2008) [http://www.island.lk/2008/02/ 27/midweek5.html, accessed 20 Jan. 2010]. Also see Jane Russell, Communal Politics under the Donoughmore Constitution 1931–1947 (Dehiwala: Tissara Prakasakayo, 1982).
55 S.R.H. Hoole, ‘Caste as a Hate Crime: Reassessing Arumuka Navalar and Vellala Dominance in Sri Lanka’, in Indian Church History Review, Vol.XLIII, no.2 (Dec. 2009), pp.113–47.
56 S.R.H. Hoole, ‘Sri Lankan America: Caste’, in Jonathan H.X. Lee and Kathleen Nadeau (eds),
Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife, Vol.3 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), pp.1049–51.
57 Rajan Hoole, Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power—Myths, Decadence and Murder, Chap. 2.
58 Both Thangathurai’s and Mustapha’s statements were made in interviews with Rajan Hoole in 1993, Mustapha in Nintavur and Thangathurai in Colombo.
59 Robert Mackey, ‘Is the World Ignoring Sri Lanka’s Srebrenica?’, The NY Times News Blog (17 April 2009) [http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/is-the-world-ignoring-sri-lankas-srebrenica/, accessed 30 Jan. 2010]. As the government of Sri Lanka gained the upper hand by Dec. 2008 in its battle against the Tigers, the latter began forcibly arming Tamil civilians in the Vanni, the LTTE’s last stronghold. These included the very young, women and even the deaf. The LTTE remnants forced these Vanni civilians to retreat with them into an ever-shrinking zone, thereby using some 300,000 civilians as a human shield. Nevertheless the government still fired on the LTTE killing many civilians, seemingly intent more on victory over the LTTE than the safety of its own citizens. According to civilians interviewed by S.R.H. Hoole, they tried to leave but were refused permission by the LTTE, which fired on those who persisted in trying. During loud demonstrations in Western cities, overseas Tamils, dominated by the Jaffna leadership, could find fault only with the government and did not say anything about the sufferings of the Vanni Tamils. For further information, see International Crisis Group, ‘War Crimes in Sri Lanka: Asia Report No. 191’ (17 May 2010) [http:// www.crisisgroup.org/*/media/Files/asia/south-asia/sri-lanka/191 War Crimes in Sri Lanka.ashx, accessed 30 Mar. 2011].
60 Confidential testimony in 2009 to S.R.H. Hoole from several former members of the English Unit now residing in North America. Others in Jaffna have since confirmed this information.
61 S.R.H. Hoole, ‘The Tamils of Sri Lanka: The Problem of Religion and Identity’, in Indian Church History Review, Vol.XXVI, no.2 (June 1992), pp.88–135.
62 The other brother is Dr. M. Ratnarajan R. Hoole, commonly known as Rajan Hoole. Amnesty International, ‘Sri Lanka: Fear for Safety: Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole’ (2006) [http://www.amnesty.org/en/ library/info/ASA37/010/2006, accessed 10 July 2009].
63 S. Sivanayagam, ‘Who is this Man called Ratnajeevan H. Hoole? Here is an Introduction to the Man Inside Out!’, Oru Paper (7 April 2006), p.7, italics in original. This newspaper is also available in Canada.
64 Thai Pongal usually falls on 14 January (called Thai in Tamil). It celebrates the harvesting of the rice crop from the September–December monsoon rains. Rice is boiled in thanksgiving to the sun god, timed to boil over (pongal) at the auspicious time as the sun begins to show itself at dawn. It is important for the froth to not only pour out but to do so in the direction of the sun or it will bode ill for the household, so expert elders ensure that this happens by manipulating the pot and the fire. Thai Pongal therefore is a Vellala (agricultural) caste festival replete with religious significance. However it was unique to Tamil Vellala Hindus while other Hindus in India did not generally celebrate it. Tamil Vellalas being dominant in Tamil intellectual and nationalist life, it was easy for them to put one over the others by claiming the celebration as purely Tamil. Despite the flaws in the argument claiming it to be free of religion, many Tamils looking for a common unifying symbol and perhaps to caste elevation, have bought into it as being the only pan-Tamil festival.
65 Sachi Sri Kantha, ‘Expulsion of Jaffna Muslims: A Response to the Claim of Cultural Genocide’ [http:// www.sangam.org/traki/articles/2005/12-10_Expulsion_of_Jaffna_Muslims_A_Response_to_Cultural_ Genocide_Claim.php?uid¼ 1365, accessed 20 Jan. 2010].
66 Telelphone interview by A.R.M. Imtiyaz, 20 Jan. 2010
67 Rajan Hoole, Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power—Myths, Decadence and Murder, p.218.
68 ‘Tigers Finished as Military Force’, BBC News (18 May 2009) [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/ 8055138.stm, accessed 18 May 2009]. See also ‘Political Parties Salute Valiant Security Forces’ [http:// www.dailymirror.lk/DM_BLOG/Sections/frmNewsDetailView.aspx?ARTID¼ 49210, accessed 18 May, 2009]. This page is no longer available.
69 International Crisis Group, ‘Sri Lanka’s Muslims: Caught in the Crossfire’, pp.3–10.
70 Badiuddin Mahmud was minister of education in the United Left Front Government of 1970–77. He went to the extent of making Sinhalese the medium of instruction almost everywhere outside the northeast, except perhaps in the Puttalam and Chilaw areas.
71 Asiff Hussein, ‘The Obvious Link between the Muslims and the Sinhalese’, Sunday Observer (10 June 2001), p.7.
72 Izeth Hussein, ‘State Terrorism’ (July 2007) [http://www.dailymirror.lk/2007/07/09/opinion/02.asp, accessed 2 May 2009]. This article is not available at present. Witnesses prove some Muslim involvement in the 1983 pogrom against the Tamils in Colombo South. Some supporters of a leading Muslim politician, attached to the then ruling party, the United National Party, led a gang consisting of poor Muslim youths who robbed Tamil-owned grocery stores and restaurants in the areas of Armour Street and Grandpass. Similar Muslim involvement occurred on the outskirts of these areas. These Muslims also actively lent a hand to Sinhalese thugs in Colombo in their bloodthirsty campaign against Tamils from 25–27 July 1983. Telephone interviews by A.R.M. Imtiyaz, 17 and 18 November 2008, with some Muslims who actively participated in the pogrom. The respondents spoke on grounds of anonymity. Imtiyaz himself witnessed the Muslims’ role in aiding Sinhala thugs in Central Colombo areas such as Layards Broadway, Grandpass and
Armour Street.
73 Ibid.
74 In 1977 Ashraff stood for the TULF and campaigned for Tamil Eelam. He later vowed that even if the late TULF leader, Appapillai Amirthalingam, had not achieved Tamil Eelam, he would do so.
75 Interview with undergraduate students at the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka on 14 Oct. 2007. See also R.Hariharan, ‘Rise in Muslim Discontent: M.H.M. Ashraff’s Leadership is not Filled Yet!’ [http:// www.muslimguardian.com/pls/portal/mpnews.mp_gl_sum.set_newsid?p_news_id¼ 8384, accessed 18 Dec. 2008].
76 V. Ameerdeen, ‘A Separate Muslim Administrative Unit: A Revolution or Disaster?’, paper presented at the South Asian Anthropologists’ Group (SAAG), 4 July 2006, Goldsmiths College, University of London, London.
77 Ibid.
78 McGilvray, ‘Tamils and Muslims in the Shadow of War: Schism or Continuity?’, pp.239–53.
79 ‘The Expulsion and Expropriation of Muslims in the North’, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Report 6 (4 Feb. 1991), Chap. 3 [http://www.uthr.org/Reports/Report6/chapter3.htm, accessed 28 Jan. 2010].
80 Ibid. See also Imtiyaz, ‘Eastern Muslims of Sri Lanka: Special Problems and Solution’, pp.404–27.
81 Nirupama Subramaniam, ‘LTTE and Muslims’, The Hindu (21 Oct. 2003), Op-Ed page [http:// www.thehindu.com/2003/10/21/stories/2003102101211000.htm, accessed 20 Jan. 2010].
82 Telephone interviews by A.R.M. Imtiyaz on 12 and 17 Feb. 2010 with some Muslim youths from Samanthurai and Sainthamaruthu who have knowledge about these incidents, and their savagery. They declined to reveal their names for their own safety. The interviews strongly suggested that some Muslim young men sexually abused and raped several poor young Tamil women in Karaitivu. It was rival communal politics associated with ethnic and religious symbols which played a significant role in motivating these young men.
83 International Crisis Group, ‘Sri Lanka’s Muslims: Caught in the Crossfire, Asia Report 134’ (29 May 2007), pp.3–10.
84 Zdzislaw Mach, Symbols, Conflict, and Identity: Essays in Political Anthropology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p.37.
85 S.J. Kaufman, Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp.29–47.
86 Imtiyaz, ‘Eastern Muslims of Sri Lanka: Special Problems and Solution’, pp.404–27.
87 ‘Sri Lanka may ‘‘Take Action’’ over Opposition Candidate’, BBC News (29 Jan. 2010) [http:// news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8486025.stm, accessed 30 Jan. 2010]. Cf fn.17.

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