Muslims in Sri Lanka struggle to fit in after the civil war: "still outsiders"
Muslims in Sri Lanka struggle to fit in after the civil war:

Colombo: Rasika Rajabdi and her family were evicted from their ancestral home by armed rebels in Sri Lanka's northern province of Mullaitivu that year, just eight years old. This happened during the country's civil war.

The child and his parents initially lived in a camp for internally displaced people in the western coastal town of Puttalam, 200 km away, for a few months before relocating to a nearby rental home.

After 26 years of fighting, the war ended in 2009, and Rajabdi, who was married at the time, was able to return to Mullatthivu with her husband and parents in 2012.

However, instead of welcoming her back with open arms, her Tamil neighbors referred to her as an "outsider" and was now a 40-year-old farmer, according to Rajabadi. They did not anticipate our return. They never wanted us to go back to our original home.

In the conflict between the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed insurgent group demanding the establishment of an independent country for the Tamils, more than 300,000 Tamil Hindus were displaced.

Since most Tamil-speaking Muslims were members of the so-called "Home Guards", a paramilitary force used by Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry in the country's northern and eastern provinces during the 1990s, the LTTE did not see them as such. "reliable."

The Sri Lankan Army and Muslim Home Guard are accused of killing more than 220 Tamils ​​in Sathurukondan in the east and Puthukkudiyiruppu in the north during a series of attacks between July and September 1990. The LTTE is said to have killed more than 300 Muslims within two days. Mosques in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

According to UNHCR estimates, the United Nations refugee agency, Rajabdi and his family were among 112,000 Muslims who were forcibly evicted and lost their land during the war.

After the war, some government initiatives helped resettle Tamil refugees, but Muslims, who make up 9.7% of Sri Lanka's 22 million citizens, did not receive much assistance.

According to peace activist and women's rights activist Shrin Abdul Saroor, internally displaced Muslims were "never officially recognized" by the government.

In the northern and eastern provinces, once claimed by the LTTE and now claimed by the nationalist Tamils, she is facilitating the rehabilitation of women war victims and promoting friendship between Muslims and Tamils.

According to Sarroor, the families of the uprooted 112,000 Muslims have grown over time, taking the total to 300,000. Only 40,000 of them have moved to the north, where an estimated 260,000 still live in camps in the Eastern, Western and North Central provinces.

According to Saroor, "sources of livelihood for Muslims, who are mainly engaged in agriculture, fishing and retail businesses, are limited in the north," and he noted that the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army had removed Muslim-owned forces after their eviction. Took the land ,

Rishad Bathiuddin, a Muslim who served as Sri Lanka's former Rehabilitation Minister, negotiated with some Islamic organizations to build homes for Muslim refugees in some places.

However, Saroor stressed that the government does not want the global community, especially the Islamic nation, to be made aware of the seriousness of crimes committed against Muslims.

It took the UNHCR ten years to open an office in Puttalam, where many internally displaced northern Muslims still live.
Other non-profit organizations, such as Refugees International and the European Union's "Homes Not House Project", have attempted to promote peace and Muslim resettlement, despite the lack of government support.

Rajabdi and Muslim activist JM, who prefers to go by their initials and is based in Mullaitivu, are both recipients of the "home" program, which builds homes for both displaced Muslims and Tamils. New homes for women to build were partly funded by it.

According to JM, while some Muslims sold their land to Tamils ​​in desperation during the period of eviction, some Tamils ​​occupied the land left after fleeing LTTE atrocities.

In 2017, Tamils ​​in Mullaittivu claimed that Muslim resettlement at Vilpattu, 134 km away, would wipe out forests planted by the LTTE. No Muslim was allowed to move there.

Muslims are still seen by Tamil nationalists and politicians as a "threat to their right to self-determination", Saroor claimed, despite the LTTE rebels' long disbandment.

As a result of Muslim politicians forming political parties based on religious identity and supporting a Sinhalese majority government, many ordinary Muslims were regarded as government informers, he continued.

Mohammad Ali, the owner of a restaurant in Colombo, echoed Saroor's sentiments and recalled how, in October 1990, LTTE cadres in Mannar in the north publicly warned Muslims to leave their homes without their valuables within the next 48 hours or risk being killed.

At the same time, Muslims were forcibly removed from other regions of the north. If Muslims attempted to "reclaim" their position, Ali, 47, expressed concern that Tamils might revert to their previous "violence."

Some Tamils, according to Mahendran Thiruvarangan, a senior lecturer in English at the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka, believe that the region's increasing Muslim population will "alter" its ethnic makeup and unfairly burden Tamils who "remained and suffered" throughout the war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president at the time, had promised to form a presidential commission to examine the expulsion of Muslims after the war, but that never happened. Instead, a group of Rajapaksa-supporting Sinhalese Buddhist monks attacked the community.

After the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, which were attributed to Islamist militants, more than 1,800 Muslims were detained. The attack claimed the lives of more than 260 people.

Since then, more than 250 Muslims, including 170 other local Muslims and charities, have been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, according to Saroor.

Voting rights were also denied to some Muslims. In the 2019 presidential election, mobs attacked buses transporting Muslims from Puttalam to Mannar to cast their votes.

According to Saroor, government officials forbid Muslims who have been internally displaced and are registered to receive rations in Puttalam from voting in the north because doing so would diminish their political representation. In Puttalam, these Muslims are also prohibited from voting.

The government's recent regressive actions, such as forbidding the burial of Muslims who passed away from Covid-19 and closing Islamic schools, have further enraged the community.

The first such gathering of the two communities since the 1990s took place last year when thousands of Muslims and Tamils from Pottuvil in the east organised a five-day joint rally to Polikandy in the north to protest against the oppression of both groups by the state.

Professor Thiruvarangan, however, claimed that some Tamil politicians and activists "pushed" for their nationalist demands, calling for the recognition of the northern and eastern provinces as the "homelands of the Tamils" rather than putting more emphasis on the reconciliation between the two communities.

The north and east are clearly primarily for Tamils, while Muslims are ranked second in both regions' racial hierarchies, according to Thiruvarangan

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