This article bridges Sri Lankan studies and the academic debate on the relation between contemporary Islam and politics. It constitutes a case study of the Muslim community in Akkaraipattu on Sri Lanka's war-ridden east coast. Over two decades of ethnically colored conflict have made Muslim identity of paramount importance, but the meanings attached to that identity vary substantively. Politicians, mosque leaders, Sufis and Tablighis define the ethnic, religious and political dimensions of “Muslimness” differently and this leads to intra-Muslim contradictions. The case study thus helps resolve the puzzle of Sri Lankan Muslims: they are surrounded by hostility, but they continue to be internally divided. Akkaraipattu's Muslims jockey between principled politics, pragmatic politics and anti-politics, because they have to navigate different trajectories. This article thus corroborates recent studies on Islam elsewhere that argue for contextualized and nuanced approaches to the variegated interface between Islam and politics.
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