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Reading: Orthodoxy and Order: The Denial of Religious Liberty to Ahmadis in Colonial Ceylon

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Orthodoxy and Order: The Denial of Religious Liberty to Ahmadis in Colonial Ceylon

Authors:

Shamara Wettimuny ,

University of Oxford, GB
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Gehan Gunatilleke

University of Oxford, GB
About Gehan
Junior Research Fellow, Pembroke College
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Abstract

Conceptions of ‘orthodoxy’ affect how religious liberty is respected in society. Religious groups at the margins of society are often delegitimised as ‘unorthodox’. Dominant religious groups may threaten backlash if the religious conduct of these marginal, ‘unorthodox’ groups is tolerated by the state. A state preoccupied with ‘public order’ may then impose unjust restrictions on the marginal group’s religious liberty to avoid such backlash. The experience of the Ahmadis in colonial Sri Lanka offers an important insight into how ‘orthodoxy’, threats of backlash, and ‘public order’ can interact in this way. This article explores the historical experience of the Ahmadis, and explains how the British colonial state unjustifiably restricted their religious liberty due to their positioning as ‘unorthodox’. It argues that narratives of ‘orthodoxy’, and a mechanical prioritisation of ‘public order’—regardless of the source of the disorder—mediated the extent to which the religious liberty of the Ahmadis was permitted by the colonial state.
How to Cite: Wettimuny, S. and Gunatilleke, G., 2022. Orthodoxy and Order: The Denial of Religious Liberty to Ahmadis in Colonial Ceylon. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 43(1), pp.1–24. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v43i1.7277
Published on 01 Jul 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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