Why Tamil-speaking Muslims in Sri Lanka broke away from Tamil identity

Illustration: Prathap Ravishankar

While the international dimensions of the Sri Lankan blasts – ISIS link, Christchurch revenge – are being probed, a purely local angle may hold the key to understanding the terror surge on the day of Easter in the island.

As Sri Lankan security forces launch an operation to flush out terror groups and neutralize them, several videos have emerged that show radicals proclaiming jihad. The voices proclaim that Inshallah (God willing) they will rain death and destruction. Besides the term invoking God’s will, the rest of the proclamations are in Tamil. The radicals may speak the language of Tamil but don’t identify themselves as Tamils.

Though Sri Lanka has seen a powerful Tamil nationalist movement, Muslims, though Tamil-speaking, have not been a part of it. In the island nation, religious identity seems to override other identities among Muslims, in particular. This stands in sharp contrast to Tamil Nadu where the Dravidian movement, which also upholds Tamil pride, has actively engaged and even integrated Muslims in its ranks.

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