Just like in Burma, the recent years have seen the unrest between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority on the upswing in Sri Lanka. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, general secretary of the Sri Lankan ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)—Sinhalese for Buddhist Power Force—actually claims to perceive an international Islamic conspiracy that aims at marginalising the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. He believes his organisation can unite all the Buddhists of the island and turn them into a nationalist force, thus countering this ‘foreseen’ Islamic threat. He has been widely accused of being the mastermind of many anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka and gained notoriety for publicly avowing his racist inclinations.
More than twelve centuries of peaceful cohabitation between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka has made both communities interdependent. Therefore safety and security of the one lies in the safety and the security of the other mutually.
A firebrand Sri Lankan monk criticised the Dalai Lama for urging the island’s Buddhists to halt violence against minority Muslims and rejected him as a global spiritual leader.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority could become radicalised and turn to foreign Islamic groups for support because of violent attacks on them by Buddhist hardliners, the island nation’s main Muslim leader and justice minister said on Friday.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has made a renewed call for Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to cease violence towards the countries’ Muslim minorities, in an address delivered on his 79th birthday.
“The government, of course, will be quite happy as long as the criticism coming from Sinhala-Buddhists does not translate into a scathing critique of the state and its nationalist project or of the government’s mismanagement of the country’s economy and the welfare system. The question before us now is how we are going to produce a criticism that penetrates into the system that serves the interests of the ruling regime in the name of all Sinhala-Buddhists. This radical criticism needs to come from all of us including the Sinhala-Buddhist community. Student leaders, educationists, workers, men, women, the clergy and activists have to lay bare the government’s deceptive politics behind its collaboration with the BBS. They need to demonstrate the ways in which Sinhala chauvinism undermines the economic strength of the people. They should expose the government’s bogus patriotic propaganda and the neo-liberal character of its economic policies that are against the interests of the poorer sections of the people of Sri Lanka. Highlighting the unevenness within the Sinhala-Buddhist community, we need to demystify the supposed homogeneity of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation.”
OIC noted that the Muslim community in Sri Lanka has a long standing presence in the country and a tradition of living in peace and harmony with their compatriots. Muslims represents an important and active community which contributes to the cultural and economic life of Sri Lanka as a whole. The recent attacks appear to follow a rising trend of violence instigated by extremists which is spreading fear and mistrust among the population.
While appealing for calm and peaceful relations between the communities, Mr Madani urged the authorities to enforce the rule of law, investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“A curfew was clamped down in the Aluthgama and Beruwela Police divisions of Kalutara district in the Western Province of Sri Lanka following an outbreak of communal violence on Sunday June 15th 2014 that was triggered off by the “Ethno Religious Fascist” Organization the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS).”
Residents of the riot-hit areas said Muslims were leaving their homes and seeking shelter in community centres as fears of more violence lurked.
There were no reports of arrests.
The latest unrest came just weeks after Muslim legislators asked Rajapaksa to protect their minority community from “Buddhist extremist elements” blamed for a recent spate of hate attacks.
Muslim families gathered at the Dhargatown Marikkar Street Mosque and several other mosques in the area, as homes came under attack by violent mobs, who continued to move about despite the curfew in force.
Shops came under attack in the Beruwala area at 9 PM, in spite of the police curfew, according to sources in the area. Crowds of people were on the March again in Aluthgama by 9 p.m., with police warning Muslim residents to stay indoors. Fixed line telephones in several areas of Aluthgama also went dead late last night.
“For the violence, for the deaths which have happened and which may happen, the BBS and the Rajapaksas must take responsibility. This is their work. This is their unpardonable crime.
We elected them; we tolerate them. That is our eternal shame.”
In some of the worst religious violence in Sri Lanka in decades, three people have been killed and 78 injured in riots between Buddhists and Muslims in this southwestern coastal town after months of rising tensions, officials said Monday.
First thing, get on Twitter if you’re not already on it. You’re not going to get critical, real time updates of the violence in Aluthgama, the spill-over to surrounding areas and its aftermath from traditional mainstream news media. Search for and follow updates from #Aluthgama.
Follow us on @groundviews on Twitter for latest updates, including retweets from confirmed, trusted sources, and the debunking of false or unverified content, curtailing its spread over social media. We’ve tweeted over a hundred updates overnight (till around 2.30am today) and have been re-tweeted hundreds of times, including conversations with sources on the ground and other journalists, interestingly tweeting from their personal accounts even though their news institutions blacked out the violence.
For more details on the violence and who to follow for timely, trusted updates over social media, click here.
This is a significant error of judgement on the part of sections of the Lankan British Muslim community in London and I am both thankful and relieved by the political astuteness of the Sri Lankan Muslim civil society groups based in Sri Lanka who have swiftly distanced themselves from this sad manifestation of political myopia.