CAIRO – Growing fearful of the rise of Buddhist nationalist attacks, Sri Lanka Muslims have written to the United Nations, complaining about the recent anti-Muslim campaign carried out by radical Buddhists with the government failing to protect them.
“After the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, the Muslims of Sri Lanka have been looking at every opportunity to bring about national unity at a time when the country is in transition,” the Muslim Tamil National Alliance said a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and cited by Colombo Gazette.
“We fail to understand the failure of the government of Sri Lanka in arresting the current trend which if left to go its course ,would spell disaster for the country we call our home,” the letter added.
|Sri Lanka Muslims Want Gov't Protection|
The Muslim Tamil National Alliance, led by Muslim politician Azath Salley, was worried about the rise of a controversial group known as “Bodu Bala Sena”, or Buddhist Force, which has been accused of inciting attacks against Muslims.
The group has been campaigning for a ban on halal meat, a campaign resisted by the Sri Lankan government.
The Buddhist group has denied any role in attacks on Muslims, saying several “duplicate groups” were pretending to be them.
Sri Lanka has been thrown into tension following a string of serious incidents involving extremist Buddhist provocations against Muslims.
In June, some 200 demonstrators led by several dozen Buddhist monks converged on a small Islamic center in Colombo’s suburb of Dehiwala.
Throwing stones and rotten meat over the mosque gate, protestors shouted slogans demanding the closure of the Muslim worship place.
Earlier in April, a number of Buddhist monks disrupted Muslim prayer services in the village of Dambulla. The attackers claimed that the mosque, built in 1962, was illegal.
Weeks later, monks drafted a threatening letter aimed at Muslims in the nearby town of Kurunegala, demanding Islamic prayer services there be halted.
The letter sent to the UN Chief urged the UN to draw the attention of the Government of Sri Lanka to protect and promote the rights of the Muslim minority.
“We urge your Excellency to take all necessary measures to guarantee that the rights and the freedom of religion or belief of the various religious communities living in Sri Lanka are respected and protected and ask of the government of Sri Lanka to adopt effective measures to prevent the recurrence of these acts,” the letter said.
The letter to the UN was sent as another Muslim group, the Friday Forum, asked the government to take solid steps towards stopping rising fascist-nationalist attacks.
“The Friday Forum urges you to act immediately and decisively to counter the increasingly venomous and strident anti-Muslim hate campaign launched by a few extremist groups claiming to represent the majority Sinhala community," the Friday Forum said in a letter addressed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and cited by Lanka Business Online.
"The country has witnessed attacks against mosques, and the circulation, on social media, public posters and web-sites, of obscene and vituperative messages that are offensive to religious beliefs.
"It has witnessed anti-Muslim public rallies and processions, including a call to boycott Muslim business establishments."
The group referred to earlier attacks by nationalist Buddhists which triggered a 30-year war ending in 2009.
In 1983, a Kristallnacht style pogrom led to the escalation of the ethnic conflict.
"The possibility of violence against a particular community, and the dangers of ethnic cleansing are very real," the Friday Forum wrote said.
"The horrors of the 1983 ethnic riots constantly remind us how human life and personal security mean nothing, when there is incitement to communal violence and hatred.
"Hate campaigns inevitably result in a deep sense of fear and vulnerability among members of the targeted community, giving rise to a fear psychosis.
"Such a situation not only deeply harms that community, but also imbues a whole society with suspicion and propensity to communal violence."
Sri Lankan Muslims, known as “Moors”, are the third largest ethnic group in the country after the Sinhalese, who make up 70 percent of the populace, and Tamils, who account for 12.5 percent.
Analysts say successive governments have been under pressure to give in to the Buddhist majority whenever there is an ethnic clash.
During the country’s long civil war, the Muslim community was often caught between the two warring parties and it has a reputation for moderation.
Muslims live scattered throughout the island from Galle in the south to the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula in the north.
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