A Sri Lankan Muslim pointing to Mecca from the train. Photo by Biel Calderon
Sri Lanka is frequently broken down into Sinhala and Tamil (or Sinhala vs. Tamil), but the country is actually a lot more diverse. There is a huge and largely multilingual Muslim population, but even that doesn’t do people justice. There are also Malays, mostly Muslim but diverse in their own way. Here are two posts on the subject.
In one, Halik Azeez gives a rundown of Muslim history in Sri Lanka
The Muslims of Sri Lanka hark back to early Arab traders, everyone knows that, but the story is actually much more complex and interesting. Like any historical narrative, tradition or well known fact, this idea that Sri Lankan Moors are somehow descendant from Arab traders becomes multifaceted and many layered when you start zooming in on it with a keen historian’s eye*.
As Arab power waned with the diminishing power of the Caliphate come the 14th and 15th centuries, trade along the East coast of Sri Lanka was increasingly monopolized by Tamil Muslims who sailed down from South India.
With the reduction of Arab ties and the influx of Indians, Muslims in Sri Lanka increasingly began looking to South India for religious guidance and hence soon adopted the Tamil language as their official mother tongue (as all education, books and scholars coming from India used Tamil). The Muslims themselves remained an anthropological mish mash of ethnicities overshadowed by a common religious identity that ignored racial and caste based boundaries.
In another post, Meg gives a brief history of the Malays, originally from Indonesia/Malaysia abouts. Malays were traders and Malay kings seem to have successfully captured Jaffna before. Also:
Having invaded Java, the Dutch found the Javanese royalty (Indonesian and Malaysian kings and chiefs) to be a threat to the ‘Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie’ (translating into- Dutch East India Company) and banished them to Sri Lanka and South Africa; two of the Dutch strongholds at the time.
Worth a read, both.