Stuck in the Middle

Jaffna, September 2002: On a hot tropical evening at a mosque in Jaffna's old Muslim quarter, the worshipers offered me a cup of warm Fanta and begged my forgiveness. It would not do, they muttered to one another, to serve foreign visitors soft drinks without ice. "We will buy an ice machine," one suggested. The notion caused a ripple of excitement until the mosque president, A.C. Mubeen, pointed out that they would need electricity first. Mubeen, once the city's richest Muslim, took me aside and apologized: "As you can see, we do not have very much and everyone is just a...

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