This project investigates the use of religious terms and symbols in politics. More specifically, it investigates Muslim politics. Its aim is to analyze the role of religious terms and symbols within a non-fundamentalist political party, namely the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a Muslim political party that has been part of the democratic process in Sri Lanka since the 1980s. I thereby hope to broaden the range of research concerning political parties founded on religious ideologies. The empirical focus of the research is on the official documents of the SLMC, such as internal documents to members, online publications from their official website and social media. The empirical data also includes parliamentary speeches made by the late leader M.H.M. Ashraff during the years from 1989 to 1992 and parliamentary speeches made by the current leader Rauff Hakkem during the years from 2006 to 2011. I have also conducted interviews with 33 leading members of the party on three different occasions. In 2006, 2011 and 2013 I visited Sri Lanka and had Colombo as my base.This research also contains an introduction to the history of Muslims in Sri Lanka and thereafter the structure of this thesis follows the different empirical data that I have collected.

In sum, “Pragmatic Muslim politics” can be seen as the complete opposite of a politics that is ideology driven and utopian. This fits well with what has been observed in the case of the SLMC. The main use of references to Islam as a religious tradition in the party has been to delimitate Muslims as a specific group in a political situation in post-colonial Sri Lanka. While there have been some initial attempts made, particularly during the 1990s, to put forward specific “Islamic” solutions to social problems, with direct references made to the scriptures particularly in the field of economics, few if any such attempts can be seen today.




Pragmatic Muslim Politics- The Case of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (PhD thesis)

Framsida avhandling

“Konstruktionen av islamo-nationalism i kontexten Sri Lanka”. In Jonas Otterbeck & Leif Stenberg (eds.), Islamologi: studiet av en religion (Swedish)

Framsida Islamologi

Articles in (Swedish)


The Conversation 

2018: “Violent Buddhist extremists are targeting Muslims in Sri Lanka” in The Conversation. April 2018.

Open Democracy 

Sri Lanka local elections: the return of Rajapaksa” in openDemocracy, Februrary 2018.



2017:  Andreas Johansson, Pragmatic Muslim Politics: The case of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, review in STK – Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift, September, 2017.

2015: XXI IAHR World Congress at Erfurt, Germany. 23–29 August. Paper presented “A cry for help – Sri Lankan Muslim organization’s discourse on social media.

2015:  Lecture at South Asian Students Association – SASA Lund University “Religion and politics in Sri Lanka” at the International Desk at Lund University, 28 May.

2014: The 23rd European Conference on South Asian Studies at Zürich, Switzerland, 23–26 July. Paper presented “Sri Lanka Muslim Congress dual nationalism: Caught between a Lion and a Tiger”

2014: XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology at Yokohama, Japan, 13–19 July. Paper presented “We Are All Sri Lankans: Sri Lankan Muslim Organization’s Reaction Towards Islamofobia”

2014: Research Workshop on Culture, Technology and Development at Falsterbo, Sweden, 13–15 June. Paper presented “Creation of identity in social media for Muslim organizations in Post-war Sri Lanka.”

2012: Lecture at UCSB “Caught Up in Conflict: The Political Struggle of Sri Lanka’s Muslims,” at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, 31 May.

2011: Konferenz Middle East at the Universität Erfurt, Faculty of Humanities, Erfurt, 25–27 March. Paper presented: “Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Rise to Power.”

2011: Lecture and discussion at “Muslim nationalism in Sri Lanka” at Högre allmänna seminariet i sociologi Linnéuniversitet, Department of Social Studies. 22/10.

2011: Third Nordic Conference on South Asian Studies for Young Scholars at Falsterbo, Sweden, 16–18 August. Paper presented: “Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Constitutions and Organization.”

2011: Fifth European PhD Workshop in South Asian Studies at the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, Paris 22–24 September. Paper presented: “Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Discourse Struggle between State Nationalism and Islam.”

2011: Sri Lanka Roundtable Sri Lanka in the World: The World in Sri Lanka, University of Zurich, Zurich, 23–24 November. Paper presented: “Sri Lanka Muslim Congress First Entrance into Parliament.”

2010: Lecture at Svenska Samfundet för Religionshistorisk Forskning, Buddhistisk och islamisk religiopolitisk diskurs i Sri Lanka”, Linnéuniversitet, Teleborgs slott 23/4