The objective of this paper
is to provide a historical overview of the processes of communal identity
formation in Sri Lanka with special reference to the Muslim community . Sri Lanka is a
multi-ethnic society in which Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others have
coexisted for centuries. However, in more recent times, ethnic relations on the
Island have been consistently strained by the rise of communalist politics which
have deepened ethnic and religious divides.
The violence of Islamism has roused
anxious concern throughout the world, especially the Muslim world. In the United
States, the media and policy makers wage a campaign to demonize Muslims and
Islam as a threat to Western interests and civilization itself. This politically
motivated propaganda has been aided by the Islamic resistance to Israel's
occupation of Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan, along with such incidents
as the plot to blow up New York's World Trade Center.
The question of Muslim personal law
has become not only a question of Muslim identity but also a question with
deeper political implications. The Muslim leadership doggedly resist any reform
in certain aspects of the law particularly pertaining to marriage and divorce
and the Hindu communal leadership would not accept anything short of complete
abolition of personal law pertaining to Muslims.
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10,  (IPS) -
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's attempt to Islamise Pakistan has been checkmated
by the imposition of Governor's rule in the troubled Pakistani province of
controversial 15th Constitutional Amendment Bill, popularly called the Shariat
Bill, has lost even the slimmest chance of ratification in the Senate, but
rights activists who are alarmed by the loss of freedom say the reprieve is at
Just last Wednesday, Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif made the bill the main plank of a public speech in the
We live in an era where
relativism and humanism affect almost every facet of our lives. Not least among
these facets is the discourse of Islam vis a vis women’s human rights. The
importance of such factors as relativism, humanism and gender sensitivity has
not come about in a vacuum.
Freedom of religion and belief is clearly stated in
all the three well recognised international human rights instruments: the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966) and the International Covenant of
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966).
has a secular system of government and operates nominally as a democracy. It is
currently seeking membership in the European Community (EC) and has already
become part of EC customs unity agreements. Many new laws have recently been
introduced in Turkey, including a new national health service and laws that will
increase penalties for rape and domestic violence.
promising changes, many marginalized groups including ethnic, religious, and
sexual minorities, continue to be denied their rights.
There are few beliefs more entrenched in the
modern liberal imagination than that of the virtues of pluralism and a
multicultural society. The degree to which Sarajevo has assumed symbolic
significance expresses the measure of attachment to the principles of a
multicultural, multiethnic community. Just as in the thirties the struggle for
Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War became symbolic of the defence of
democracy against fascism, so the siege of Sarajevo has assumed a mythic status
as a struggle between pluralism and barbarism.
Dominating the courtyard of
the homestead of Abdul Hossain is a large and ostentatious shrine. Decorated
with Arabic designs and words, and surrounded by flags, the shrine (mazaar) is
similar to hundreds of similarly venerated graves scattered over the landscape
of rural Sylhet, in north-east Bangladesh. It proclaims for all to see that the
late Abdul Hossain is a pir.
An attempt is made in this
paper to trace the development of ethnic consciousness and religious
fundamentalism among Sri Lankan Muslims and the bearings of this development on
Sri Lankan Muslim women.*
At the outset, I should clarify the
use of the terms ethnic consciousness and fundamentalism. Both these terms are
very popular and controversial in the current socio-political discourse. There
are a number of definitions and disagreements about them.