Ethno-Economical war on Sri Lankan Muslims

For some, it’s seriously strange to know a group of people out of the vast majority of the peace-loving Sri Lankans setting fire and throwing petrol bombs at Muslim owned businesses all of the sudden. To a minority, it gives a sense of pleasure as they passionately love communal conflicts.

Whether you are a patriotic peace-loving citizen, or the latter, being an ethno-economical target is not new for the Sri Lankan Muslims who make up just under 10% of the total population.


Mr. Arun (Not his real name) was a functioning judge in the courts of LTTE before he migrated to the UK and a conversation with him would slightly change your views regarding the 1990 forceful eviction of Muslims from the region.

We discussed the matter one day and I too was stunned when he asked me.. “OK,  let’s assume there were only 5000 Muslim families living in Jaffna and each family had  just one friend from the Tamil community.

When the LTTE ordered all Muslims to leave within 24 hours carrying just Rs. 500 per family, there should have been at least 5000 Tamils on the streets for their friends. However, it didn’t happen.

One would easily put the blame on “fear’ which is reasonable and fair enough.

How about the same local community providing ‘soda’ to the cadres who were selling Muslim’s belongings on street auction the following day and also celebrating?

Local tradesmen were in joy because they now had the liberty to take over the moor community’s economic prospects”.

“I saw this with my own eyes and was ashamed as a human being,” he added.

Well, the jolly men celebrating the recent attacks on Muslim businesses and weakening their economy are no different to those 5000 assumed virtual Jaffna ‘friends’ as it is highly unlikely for the Sinhalese youth nowadays not to have a Muslim friend in Sri Lanka after all.

Mahinda Era

Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his effort to fulfil his third term dream, certainly entertained the hate loving category of people and fuelled it for his own benefits. The rise was inevitable as it always existed in the minds of the group.

Regardless, Muslim owned businesses, especially those who were able to expand by exercising their business tradition and those who were capable have made their presence nationwide and are certainly contributing to the economy and creating employment.

Sri Lankans as a whole are benefiting despite a small number of people who seem to be troubled.

However, it may not be the case if you take a deeper look at it:

Competition in any business is normal but injecting hatred into the ordinary mind is very dangerous. This reduces the need for a direct involvement from those monsters with a  heart full of hatred and it is the innocent citizens who are victimised.

Nevertheless,  this exists everywhere in the world. Not just against Muslims but against most of the minority populations in the world in many countries including our neighbours India, Pakistan and Our mother land.

Halal Business

One such example I faced in the UK was a conversation with a pest controller (an Englishman) who attended to treat cockroaches at my house.

Eventually, he noticed a frame with some Arabic letters hanging on my wall and on his way out he pulled me in to a conversation to say he is offended by local KFCs’ selling Halal chicken.

When questioned, he blatantly replied that he prefers non halal same way as the Muslims prefer halal and the Jews prefer Kosher food.

Fair enough, but what he failed to understand was not all KFC’s are selling Halal meat and they are only doing so in areas where large number of potential consumers present to keep their own business up and running due to fierce competition by other small businesses in the same field.

On the other hand that too is with a price, as HFC, one of the halal certificate providers in the UK charges a significant amount for certifying which finally pull the pennies out of the consumer’s wallet.

So, there is in fact a clear explanation but it was not something he was interested in, although I managed to explain it to him.

Sri Lanka too faced the halal issue at the hands of BBS yet slightly differently.

Frankly speaking, ACJU’s failure to foresee the issue timely was one major factor making it a big scene and the solution introduced later should have at least reduced the tensions, if at all they’d have listened to other people and implemented the idea much earlier.

Their ‘trust’ level of the Rajapaksa regime prevented doing so and the whole country paid the price by permitting the rise of racial elements.

Portuguese – British Era

Is that all to look at this serious problem? Not at all as the Moors of Sri Lanka, who are known as Muslims, first became an economical target and suffered heavily at the hands of the Portuguese.

Upon the arrival of the Portuguese in the late 15th century the Moors being a free trading community were enjoying the benefit of being the same, satisfying the local economical needs and their kings in history.

However, the arrival of the Portuguese changed everything as they started targeting the Moor men’s trade field, forcefully taking over in revenge of the Moors men’s participation in attacks against them being loyal to the king.

This continued throughout history for the next 400 years at least, since the main objective of the foreign rulers was to control trade in the sea and land around the Asian region.

So did the Dutch until they finally relaxed with some levels of restriction in return for Moor men joining hands with them in their battle for survival very lately just before losing control of the Island to the British.

So, throughout history, Muslims have always been an economical target especially due to their extraordinary trading abilities and unprecedented level of influence in the field.

During the rise of the BBS in the recent past, a Muslim owned popular clothing outlet was attacked and the owner was somewhat furious at least for the first few hours until a prominent Muslim minister who acted as a messenger of Mahinda Rajapaksa calmed him down reminding him  that he has a number of branches widespread.

His business did not even take part in the Hartal observed by the minority communities in Colombo and in North – East of the country following the Aluthgama attack for the same reason despite two angry Muslim youths threatening him and ending up in a police case.

However, no goodwill worked and nothing stopped the violent category continuing their attacks on Muslim businesses all around the southern province since their nationalist propaganda was nothing but a way of concealing their political agenda that can be classified as the economical war on Sri Lankan Muslims.


So, where exactly is this leading to? It’s a question that will never find an answer as the co-operate world which Maithri – Ranil relies on, needs this dirty trick in order to widen their influence.

Can Mahinda bring back the ‘change’? Absolutely not, because Sri Lanka can never go back to the good old days of the pre-Portuguese era in the current world and there seems to be no step back at least in the near future.

Well, Muslims for sure will adapt to the situation but their natural economical influence will always face challenges unless a clear development from a root level is established.

It is a tainted vision as to how the present government’s policies can achieve the national integration and reconciliation whilst explicitly favouring the ethno-economical war against the Sri-Lankan Muslims, just like their predecessors.

Eventually, the future will learn that there is and was an ugly side of the political agenda behind ‘Yahapalanaya’!


-Irfan Iqbal