Muslims have always known how weird Saudi Arabia is

I’m not a big fan of Hasan Minhaj’s “Millennial smug” style of comedy. What it really reminds me is Brad Stine’s “Christian comedy.” It’s aimed toward ingroups and comes off as tone-deaf and stupid to outgroups. So you know what you’re getting into.

That being said, as someone who is Muslim Minhaj has always “gotten” the issue with Saudi Arabia. Most Muslims I have known, from very conservative Salafi types to irreligious cultural varieties, have strange and strong attitudes toward Saudi Arabia. Even the most conservative often have mixed attitudes, because Saudi Arabia may sponsor Salafism worldwide, but no one can deny that the ruling family are hypocrites in their private practice.

Believing Muslims though have to admit that the Saudis are currently the guardians of Islam’s holy sites, and, the kingdom provides a great deal of money for various Muslim causes as well as Muslims more generally. And of course, Saudi Arabia has been a source of employment for many Muslims from outside the kingdom for many decades.

The fact that we are “having a discussion” about Saudi Arabia as if there is a discussion to have is a testament to the power of money in public discourse, and how one can buy elite complicity.

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34 thoughts on “Muslims have always known how weird Saudi Arabia is”

  1. Just feel that both his Indian part (at the end) as well as muslim part does border a bit towards exaggeration. I feel there is hardly that degree of resentment towards the Saudis in the wider muslim world(Jealousy yes). There is a reason why no one gives a dam about Kashoggi’s killing in the muslim world while the whole white world is up in arms. I do see “woke” muslims like Minaz/ Mehdi Hassan etc from time to time take them to task but it’s hardly the “muslim world”. I may be wrong here.

    The same goes for Indian-american community where again no one really models their children over Rajat Gupta or that doctor whose name not one of his own “woke” desi crowd could recognize. This is stretching to find villains to recreate “there are bad eggs in all communities” type of scenarios. And to pick Bobby the Indian, is to make a example of Ben Carson represent Black people. None of the Indian american representatives are comfortable with the Indian side(including Haley) and it has been a recent thing where they have seen their Indian part as an asset because of raising funds and India’s rising influence and the whole model minority thing. If push comes to shove Harris will be the first one to throw the “Indian” community under the bus.

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  2. I feel there is hardly that degree of resentment towards the Saudis in the wider muslim world(Jealousy yes).

    muslims have always talked shit about the saudis in my family’s circles. i even remember an egyptian guy who grew up in mecca. the thing is they are very open in their hypocrisy if you are in saudi. so a lot of muslims get cynical.

    where does your feeling come from?

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    1. I dont know, to me all those shit talk about someone, can come from both jealousy(of having a more high achieving cousin ) or Cynicism. Lot of my Pakistani friends too talk shit about them , but where the rubber meets the road they will (and their Govt) will always side with the Saudis. There is a inherent understanding i feel that they are the “leaders” and it ok to criticize (because its safe) and belittle the general behind his back, no one really has the balls to stand up to them, not alteast in the muslim world. Because deep down they themselves are bit like Saudis (or want to become like them)

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      1. Because deep down they themselves are bit like Saudis (or want to become like them)

        no. you don’t know enough to make good judgments. the saudis didn’t invent their type of islam. it emerged at the same time (as a revival/reform) in deoband as you have to know.

        the thing with the gulf and saudis is that the $ is important. if you are a moderately important person you can get a lot of good money. and even if you hate them, you need to cultivate them cuz of $.

        no, ppl don’t admire. lol. i hate to pull the ‘identity card’ but since i have ‘passed’ as muslim i can assure you ppl are candid with me about what they really think. yes, some admire. but a lot have contempt, especially those who work for saudis (read: do all the work).

        once the saudis have no money to give, all the flattery will disappear. the turks are getting independent enuf economically at this point that their contempt for arabs is back.

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        1. ” i can assure you ppl are candid with me about what they really think. yes, some admire. but a lot have contempt, especially those who work for saudis”

          They have that contempt because they want what the Saudis have. That unbridled power with no accountability , and not necessarily because they feel that Saudis are doing something wrong. In their own home countries they lord over the lesser mortals without accountability and then they have to kow-tow to the Saudis in the wider muslim world. That loss of power rankles.

          “once the saudis have no money to give, all the flattery will disappear. the turks are getting independent enuf economically at this point that their contempt for arabs is back.”

          Its true to an extent, but neither Iran/Turk will ever be the “true” leader without the symbolism of the holy sites. Even with the Turks it will be interesting to see how many of the “muslim” non arab/non turk countries will really line of on the Turks side to proclaim them as the leader of Umaah. Also all those Muslims who have hate/contempt for the Saudis what would happen if lets say the USA really turns the screws on the Saudis, they will go back to support their original Sunni team(including the Turks). In times of crisis everyone mostly sticks to their own team,so i would disagree that its only money which would matter what the future of Saudi is the leadership of the muslim world will look like . All these superficial contempt/hate/cynicism talk to me is mostly in house dick measuring contest. Not one of them them will stand up to Saudis (while expecting the western countries to stand up) while parrot the same “we hate the Saudis” line from a safe distance. How can one really make out if that contempt is real or fake in this scenario?

          I hope you understand its not personal since i don’t consider you as muslim. Lets just agree to disagree.

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          1. I agree with Saurav. Muslim world , at any rate Sunni world , kowtowing to Saudis is not all due to money. In Muslim world , more orthodox wins at the end of the day with very little contest from ‘moderate’ or ‘liberal’ Islam if such a thing exists. Saudis have positioned themselves not only as the guardian of two mosques , but also guarantors of the most orthodox and puritanical version – that is what gives their version of Islam the reach and compliance around the world. Laughing at Saudis or criticism them is just letting off steam which helps in genuflecting to them rest of the time.
            The only Muslim country which can confidently take on Saudis is Turkey – that is due to their centuries old secular tradition and being the most powerful Muslim country. That is why Turkey is in the forefront of Kashoggi affair trying to take on saudis head-on. If Jamal Kashoggi had disappeared in any other Muslim country like Pakistan or Morocco, nobody would have heard about it, and Saudis would have easily twisted their arms and bulldozed them.

            Only other criticism or opposition to Saudis is from Shias and their motivations are different.

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      1. right, but i don’t speak authoritatively about it. neither you or vijayvan seem to know much about the history of islam and their cultures to make these assertions with any credibility.

        but it’s BP comment sections. i’m pretty liberal. and this is pretty common for ppl to bullshit about shit they don’t know about.

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        1. was just kidding bro. I said at the start, i am open to being corrected. My interaction has been with Desi muslims back home and to a certain extent in the diaspora. And to a lesser extent with S-E asian muslims. No much with turks , egyptians and central asian muslims, so perhaps not the full holistic picture.

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          1. to be fair to you, south asian muslims are kind of craven re: arabs.

            white non-arabs (turks) not so much. and non-arabian arabs (egypt, syria, palestinian) are pretty withering about desert bedouins.

            but i would suggest elite south asian muslims would be different from upward mobile types.

            btw, the hanbali inflected islam that dominates saudi salafism has always been marginal for a reason. it’s been around a long time too. it’s not even historically the main tradition within the domain of saudi arabia.

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    1. Would agree and add that a lot of indian non-muslims overestimate the solidarity of the Arab states, let alone the muslim world at large. There’s a great deal of nuance in the rivalry and disdain that can manifest between egyptians, palestinians, khaleejis, ect. South Asian muslims who’ve spent a lot of time in the gulf often pick up on it and I’ve heard on many occasions, pious indian muslims voicing opinions like “to hell will palestinians” (they are to arrogant, secular and entitled) which runs contrary to what many assume to be an uncontested position.
      I don’t sense that disdain for the KSA is all about jealousy. The levantines, persians, turks and others truly look at themselves as more sophisticated and heirs to a more urbane culture. The arabs are a case where conflating mother tongue and ethnicity doesn’t reflect their self-perception.

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      1. The levantines, persians, turks and others truly look at themselves as more sophisticated and heirs to a more urbane culture.

        it’s objectively true. arabia was marginal after 650. in revisionist telling arabia was never that important to begin with.

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      2. Well let’s wait and watch. I feel no one could replace the Saudis as the leaders (perceived or otherwise ) of the Muslim world in our lifetimes I honestly feel that at least the desi Muslim block which is by far the largest one will stand with the Saudis.

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      1. Maybe its more about exposure, has one socialized with muslims from a breadth of communities. There is a great range from java to bosnia.

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        1. The problem is what is ‘to know’ and how is it validated. Basically that someone has not said anything meaningful.
          Too much exposure can make you mistake trees for wood. Objectivity comes from distance.

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  3. I am obviously with Razib Khan and girmit.

    For a sense of how Saudis think about and treat Hindustanis, let me quote:
    http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/03/26/pakistani-psychosis/
    “Extreme Sunni Arabs–especially Saudis–generally look down on Pakistanis as a type of slave subhuman untermensch. Imagine how many Americans in the deep south looked down on slaves in the early 1800s. Then multiply it by a hundred and maybe you get into the ballpark. Extreme Sunni Arabs don’t much respect Asians or Africans in general. [Not all Sunni Arabs are extreme Sunni Arabs.]”

    I am shocked that so many nonmuslims [even brown pundit ones] have been hoodwinked by the very powerful global Saudi led Arabist lobby and propaganda campaign.

    I have never met a non Saudi muslim who liked Saudi Arabia. Many muslims are afraid of KSA and don’t criticize KSA for that reason. But that is not the same thing. Maybe I should not discuss KSA more for fear of being labelled Islamaphobic by nonmuslims.

    Here is a very fine remembrance of Jamal Khashoggi–someone I respect:
    https://warontherocks.com/2018/10/the-jamal-khashoggi-i-knew/
    Was thinking of posting this in a new thread:
    “Muslims have always known how weird Saudi Arabia is (a)”
    I would suggest everyone read this in full. And I don’t agree with it just because Barnett Rubin wrote it.

    “to be fair to you, south asian muslims are kind of craven re: arabs.” Not Indian ones! Afghan ones definitely not. Afghans express their anger at KSA openly. Pakistanis . . . well what can I say.

    Bangladeshi muslims . . . any thoughts?

    “btw, the hanbali inflected islam that dominates saudi salafism has always been marginal for a reason. it’s been around a long time too. it’s not even historically the main tradition within the domain of saudi arabia.”
    True. Before 1920 Wahhabis were widely seen among Gulf Arabs as Kooks. Yes it is Hanbali inflected in the way a crazy insane step child who has deep mutual hatred for their parents and denounces 90% of what their parents stand for is inflected by their parents. I have my own detailed critiques of the Hanbali–but I feel it is unfair to associate them too much with their nutty step offspring given that Hanbali leaders denounced Abd al-Wahhab.

    For homegamers Abd al-Wahhab is similar to Ibn Taymiyyah minus Sufism (albeit he only had a hint of Sufism) raised to the fifth power.

    Razib, I would be very curious to hear your perspectives on what you called “Hindu nationalism” . . . not that I know what that means.

    “right, but i don’t speak authoritatively about it.” True. I would be curious to hear your thoughts none the less.

    “neither you or vijayvan seem to know much about the history of islam and their cultures to make these assertions with any credibility.”
    I actually thought they might be knowledgeable on Islam before today. 😉
    Have you guys really met pro Saudi muslims (who are not themselves Saudi)? Maybe they thought you were KSA or ISI spies and were pretending?

    “we have a lot of experts’ the mentality of muslims who aren’t muslim on this weblog!” That is good. Many nonmuslims who have deeply studied muslims and Islam know a heck of a lot more than nominal muslims who have not studied muslims and Islam carefully. This said . . . it is best to be curious and carefully study Islam and muslims over many years.

    Saurav, maybe some day I will share stories about my favorite Turks. Turks make much better food than Saudis and they feed everyone. Goes a long way. Turks rock!

    The time has come for Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Indian muslims, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia to take over the muslim world and fix things. Inshallah it happens soon.

    “The same goes for Indian-american community where again no one really models their children over Rajat Gupta or that doctor whose name not one of his own “woke” desi crowd could recognize”
    I think many Indian Americans do model their children after Rajat Gupta pre scandal. I use to admire him, as did many of my friends. What doctor are you referring too?

    ” There is a reason why no one gives a dam about Kashoggi’s killing in the muslim world while the whole white world is up in arms. I do see “woke” muslims like Minaz/ Mehdi Hassan etc from time to time take them to task but it’s hardly the “muslim world”. I may be wrong here.”
    You are partly right. But that is because KSA has indirectly killed over a million muslims. Many of the best and brightest muslims from all over the world have suffered at KSA’s hands. Muslims are shocked that dumb nonmuslims don’t know this. And they are surprised that it took Kashoggi to wake nonmuslims up.

    “And to pick Bobby the Indian, is to make a example of Ben Carson represent Black people.” This makes me uncomfortable. Why pick on Bobby? The main reason I don’t like him doesn’t have to do with his Indian-ness or lack thereof.

    “None of the Indian american representatives are comfortable with the Indian side(including Haley)”
    We don’t agree.

    “and it has been a recent thing where they have seen their Indian part as an asset because of raising funds and India’s rising influence and the whole model minority thing.” Some Indian Americans don’t much care what others think about their heritage. If someone doesn’t like their heritage, that is their problem.

    “If push comes to shove Harris will be the first one to throw the “Indian” community under the bus.” I use to like her until she threw Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and the Dalai Lama under the bus at the last moment by cancelling her address at the World Hindu Congress. She even denounced the meeting. I did not expect her to do something she clearly did not believe was right or accurate.

    Razib, have you ever heard of muslims being jealous of Saudi Arabia? For what? Their amazing scientists, engineers, business people, architects, artists, athletes, physical fitness, meditative peaceful presence, pilots, soldiers, fighters? Is this a joke?

    “if lets say the USA really turns the screws on the Saudis, they will go back to support their original Sunni team(including the Turks).” Are you sure about this?

    VijayVan:
    ” kowtowing to Saudis is not all due to money.” Ha Ha Ha! Nice commedy routine 🙂 More seriously a lot of the kowtowing to the Saudis is out of fear.

    “In Muslim world , more orthodox wins at the end of the day with very little contest from ‘moderate’ or ‘liberal’ Islam if such a thing exists.”
    We deeply disagree. Have you met Indian muslims? Have you been to Sufi and Shiite shrines and met them?

    “Saudis have positioned themselves not only as the guardian of two mosques , but also guarantors of the most orthodox and puritanical version – that is what gives their version of Islam the reach and compliance around the world.” True.

    “Laughing at Saudis or criticism them is just letting off steam which helps in genuflecting to them rest of the time.” Partly true.

    “The only Muslim country which can confidently take on Saudis is Turkey – that is due to their centuries old secular tradition and being the most powerful Muslim country. That is why Turkey is in the forefront of Kashoggi affair trying to take on saudis head-on. If Jamal Kashoggi had disappeared in any other Muslim country like Pakistan or Morocco, nobody would have heard about it, and Saudis would have easily twisted their arms and bulldozed them.”
    Not completely true. Denouncing KSA is a great way for a muslim leader to become popular. A chance to hit back at the Saudis is worth a large financial hit.

    “Only other criticism or opposition to Saudis is from Shias and their motivations are different.” Most of the Shia criticism of KSA is authentic and not sectarian. Indonesian/Malaysian muslims (Hindu tilted Sunnis) also detest KSA. So do Indian muslims. So do Sufis. So do Kurds. So do Algerians. So do Tunisians. So do Libyans. So do Egyptians. So do Jordanians, Azerbaijanis.So do Afghans (Afghans hate Saudis). So do Iraqis. (Iraqis hate Saudis).

    Why do you think every country in the Gulf other than KSA doesn’t like KSA? Have you seen what KSA recently tried to do to Qatar? [not that the Qataris didn’t partly deserve it.]

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  4. My comments, observations re muslims I see in the village (North Western Province) where I live (30% Muslim as against 9% National avg).

    a) Seen occasions where Muslim villagers cheer Pakistan and waving Pakistan flags when there are cricket games between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
    b) Proliferation of mosques built by mid east money (1).
    c) 2-3 hour lessons in Arabic after regular school (1)
    d) Niqab, hijab becoming the norm for women. Almost never saw that 20 years ago.
    e) No clue of Sri Lankan history, the ME was and is the height of civilization.

    Apparently much worse in the Eastern Province.
    (1) During colonial times, there were mainstream Churches and christian schools built. Key differences a) English medium, i.e. can compete globally b) Secular subjects such as science and math are taught.
    Contrary to general opinion, Evangelical churches are built with local money and mainly small structures, a little better than a shed. This has been true since the 1940’s when American/Swedish Evangelicals started doing missionary work in SL. My maternal grandparents built the first Evangelical church in the South, Galle. Their land and part of the funds for the Church. Maternal grandmother was quite well off, so the church is quite a decent size, but still small compared to Anglican and Catholic churches.

    My general grouse being that rural muslims are identifying themselves as Mid Easter and Pakistani (over here they are both the same). It is much much less in urban areas, predominantly west and south western part of SL. This is probably because in urban area access to secular education and reading material.

    This not hearsay, first hand observation. I tutor English and Sinhala (for free) two kids in Grade 9. Absolutely not interested in science and almost no clue of the rest of Sri Lanka, forget about its history. As far as I know no muslim from the village has entered University or has even part professional qualification (eg Accounting which every Tom and Sally are doing in other parts of SL). There is one Tamil boy who is now in second year doing Geography (including GIS) and Economics. He hoping to do the Civil Service exams or a fall back goal of being a teacher.

    Assemblies of God Church, Galle
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/EsTsAiTNDoLReihcA
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/fcAPqNGemKfHs2EA6

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    1. How much is it true during the Ealam wars that muslims in those areas spied on LTTE, for the SL army? Or is it just propaganda? Any blow back from that?

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    2. True in other parts of the world also. I see similar phenomenon both in India and UK. Niqab is becoming de rigueur for girls as small as 4 years, abandonment of South Asian dress in favour of Arab, heavy dose of Arabic and Quranic classes in special schools for that, a kind of self-ghettoizattion

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      1. In Bosnia, too. Sarajevo was very secular city, not different from any other middle European city. Now, there are many banks from S.Arabia, they are buying land in Bosnia and settling Muslims from Arabia, changing the balance within local population. They organise camps for military training for locals and for fighters from the whole world. Western countries were tolerating this for years because they made worldwide propaganda that Serbs are bad guys who oppress innocent good Muslims. Now, they are rethinking this realising that many ISIS fighters coming back to Bosnia and Kosovo on European doorstep ready for new projects. Many young girls now carry hijabs and they receive a monthly salary from S.Arabia for this. S.Arabia (and Qatar) with Israel’s guidance financed ISIS army. There is now information that one of reasons why Kashogi was killed was his intention to publish that S.A. used poisons in Yemen against civilians. All this also reveals hypocrisy and double standards by US.

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  5. sbarrkum, so sad it has gotten that bad that quickly in parts of Sri Lanka.

    Have many traditional (I mean pre 1920) Sri Lankan muslims been intimidated, targeted or killed in Sri Lanka by extremists? Is the muslim community scared of extremists? [As an aside this is far more true in Bangladesh now than it was in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s . . . why has Bangladesh deteriorated this much?]

    How many non Salafi influenced Sri Lankan muslims are there? What are their perspectives? What are the denominations or backgrounds of non Salafi influenced Sri Lankan muslims (Ahmedi, twelver, sixer, Sufi, liberal Sunni?) Pre 1920 what did Sri Lankan Islam look like?

    Are there some Sri Lankan muslims among the Sri Lankan upper middle class and middle class? [There are many middle class and upper middle class muslims in India . . . which is not to deny that Indian muslims are more likely to be poor than Indian nonmuslims.]

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  6. “Seen occasions where Muslim villagers cheer Pakistan and waving Pakistan flags when there are cricket games between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.”

    Wow. Now that sounds familiar! 🙂
    When I was a kid, such antics by Indian Muslims used to enrage me. Not any more. It just evokes pity now.

    It’s a tragedy that while subcontinental Muslims try ever harder to become “naturalized” Arabs, Arabs just spit on them. Sometimes literally.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc3EQHVkTfs

    I just feel sorry for this segment of lost humanity.

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    1. “When I was a kid, such antics by Indian Muslims used to enrage me. Not any more. It just evokes pity now.”

      I feel most of this is just “hindu” despair that their own “muslim” countrymen hold a place and the people (Arabs) on higher pedestal than them. Savarkar turned full hindu nationalist after Khailfat movement . For someone who has interacted with desi muslims from childhood, there fascination/luke warm loyalty for the arabs and a sort of neutral-ness towards Pak(which is characterized by many as treachery) , is hardly surprising.

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  7. It’s a tragedy that while subcontinental Muslims try ever harder to become “naturalized” Arabs, Arabs just spit on them. Sometimes literally.

    going to work int he gulf cures a lot of ppl of arabophilia

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    1. going to work int he gulf cures a lot of ppl of arabophilia
      Not among SL muslims.
      A majority of poor and lower middle class Muslims , men and women have worked in the Gulf. The men still identify themselves as Arab descendants when you chat to them. I chat to the women, but not about politics. By change in dress habits they do seem to have embraced Arab culture.

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  8. Saurav asks How much is it true during the Ealam wars that muslims in those areas spied on LTTE, for the SL army? Or is it just propaganda? Any blow back from that?

    Cant comment on spying by Muslims. Has to have at least the odd one and some Tamils (in North and East) who were an informants to the Army. Heck there is a Sinhalese guy in this village who is supposed to have the helped the LTTE Airport and Anuradhapura attack. Guy was in jail for many years, released apparently for lack of evidence.

    The LTTE was paranoid, they saw informants every where and any little suspicion one was made an example, i.e. tortured killed and hung off a lampost at a crossroad. Finally they expelled the Muslims from Jaffna, Mannar and Battiocoloa and confiscated all their liquid assets, cash, gold etc.

    It was the Mid east regimes that built houses for the displaced. Some from Western NGO’s but mainly ME. So for sure gratitude. This village does not have displaced or ME funded housing. The mosques have been made larger and bigger louder loudspeakers.

    Are there some Sri Lankan muslims among the Sri Lankan upper middle class and middle class? [There are many middle class and upper middle class muslims in India . . . which is not to deny that Indian muslims are more likely to be poor than Indian nonmuslims.]

    Muslims are perceived in Sri Lanka as being successful business community. They are mainly descendants of South Indian and Arab traders. (Vaguely remember a Arab DNA component of 4%). In rural areas, other than the shop keepers no richer or poorer than their Sinhalese/Tamil neighbors.

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