As Sri Lanka s third largest ethnic group, Muslims (8%) have since Sri Lanka s independence been represented mainly through the two largest sinhala-lead parties in the country (UNP and SLFP). However, as the quest for Tamil seccessionism in the north-east, where many Muslims live, turned violent, a Muslim party gained force claiming to represent the north-eastern Muslims. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) was formed and remained fairly strong until the death of its leader in year 2000. After this, SLMC has split into four or more separate parties pursuing slightly different policies and alliances with the two larger ethnic groups, not the least in relation to the Norwegian-mediated peace negotiations from 2002.
Have the splits been caused by leadership conflict, or do the splits reveal deeper political divides within the community? The aim of this study is to analyse why Muslim parliamentary politics at present is as fragmented as it is by use of theories on ethnic conflicts and ethnic political mobilisation.