Scholarly work exists on how Muslim minority positioning affects identity and politics, but what is less known is its impact on religion. Sri Lanka’s 9% Muslim population, the country’s second largest minority, has undergone a series of recent changes to religious identity, thinking and practice, which have been shaped by its relationship to the dominant and warring ‘ethnic others’. As Sri Lanka plunged deeper into armed conflict in the 1990s, Muslims experienced significant shifts in religious thinking and practice, identifying strictly with a more ‘authentic’ Islam. After the war ended in 2009, Muslims became the target of majoritarian Sinhala-Buddhist violence, resulting in a reinterpretation of Islam and a counter process of change. Using the Sri Lankan Muslim case study to engage with scholarly critiques of majority–minority binaries, this article analyses how religious change is brought about through the interjection of minority status with ethno-nationalisms and conflict. Its focus on Islam in Sri Lanka contributes to area studies and to Islamic studies, the latter through a rare analysis of Islamic reform in a Muslim minority context
This chapter assesses the return to autocratisation in Sri Lanka and its effect on minorities, with specific focus on the country’s second largest minority group, its 9 per cent Muslim population. It will argue that the recent shift towards autocratization is intrinsically linked with protecting and promoting Sinhala Buddhist extremism. The chapter will analyse how this extreme derivation of Sinhala Buddhist nationhood project has gained state legitimacy and succeeded in oppressing the country’s minorities. Utilising the case study of the government’s April 2020 policy to permit only the cremation of Covid-19 dead, this chapter explains the relationship between Muslims and autocratisation as one where the latter is maintained as a threat and attacked as an enemy. It argues that Muslims are necessary for this present form of autocratisation, hence they cannot be annihilated but subjugating them is critical for the survival of autocratisation.
Mihlar F, 'Shifting between Desperation and Rejection: Sri Lankan Muslims’ Relationship with Demands for Justice and Accountability' in Shreen Saroor (ed.), Muslims in post-war Sri Lanka: Repression, Resistance, and Reform, Perera-Hussein publishing (2022)
Mihlar F, 'Reform of Minority Rights Regime', (2022)
Mihlar F, 'Minority rights approach to transitional justice', Abstract
Transitional justice, though heavily problematised, is a burgeoning and transforming field. However, apart from when atrocity crimes such as genocide are committed, it remains indifferent to the rights and positionality of non-dominant ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. Sri Lanka, which recently dabbled with transitional justice, offers a useful case study of the role of identity and minority positioning in conflict related crimes and victim and perpetrator status. Through empirical research in conflict affected parts of the country this article demonstrates this specific minority dimension, including the differential justice demands of ethnic and religious groups, and analyses how the neglect of these factors affected the country’s transitional justice process. It also challenges assumptions on the neutrality of a majoritarian ethno-nationalist state in delivering transitional justice to all communities. Though also a contested topic, the article builds on the minority rights framework and proposes an approach to ensure identity groups are actively included in transitional justice and their rights are protected. It concludes that such an approach is crucial, in line with critical transitional justice, to ensure transformative change by guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination, responding to structural violations, and striving towards non-repetition and meaningful reconciliation.