05/25/2017, 17.19
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Fifteen attacks against Muslims in Sri Lanka in just over a month

by Melani Manel Perera

The Secretariat for Muslims reported 538 acts of violence between 2013 and 2015 by Buddhist extremist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena. For US, Sri Lanka will take immediate action, but Muslims think otherwise.

Sri Lanka (AsiaNews) – Violence against Muslims is up in Sri Lanka, whilst the authorities appear apathetic towards the problem and Buddhist religious leaders remain silent, this according to the Secretariat for Muslims (SFM), an Islamic organisation active across the country.

The group has recorded 538 episodes of violence, intimidation and aggression against Muslims between 2013 and 2015, a trend that has intensified more recently with at least 15 cases between 16 April (Sinhalese New Year) and 22 May, with attacks against individuals, mosques and Muslim-owned businesses.

"Some Buddhist groups have attacked Muslim places of worship and businesses in various parts of the country,” the SFM said in a statement. “The goal is to exert power and spread hatred among peace-loving people.”

"After Sinhalese-Tamil New Year, Buddhist groups have begun attacking Muslims again,” said Hilmy Ahamed, an activist.

 “Since 16 April there have been at least 20 attacks or attempted attacks, as well as acts of intimidation, and threats against people, holy places and in the workplace,” he added. “These renewed threats come from groups like Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Sinha-le and Mahason Balaya, just to name a few."

Buddhist extremists set fire (and in some cases completely destroyed) to a number of businesses, including a perfume shop in Elpitiya, a leather goods store in Wijerama Junction, the Last Chance Electrical showroom, and a mosque in Panadura.

The Ibrahim Jumma and Mallawapitiya mosques were attacked in Kohilawatta and Kurunegala respectively. Two shops were also attacked in Panadura, as were Selvanagar and Selva Nagar, two predominantly Muslim villages in Trincomalee.

The attackers insulted Allah, threatened Muslims in Onegama, Polonnaruwa, and seized land in Irrakamam, Mayakkali. The Venerable Gnanasara Thero, head of the Bodu Bala Sena, led the way in Irrakamam, spewing hatred against Muslims.

"This is an attempt to make Muslims turn violent and go against the government,” said Mano Ganesan, Minister for National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages. “Some groups are using Muslims to split the country along religious and ethnic lines."

“Any attack on a house of worship is reprehensible; this is the third in a week,” wrote on twitter Atul Keshap, US ambassador to Sri Lanka, reacting to the violence.

The US government said that it believes that the Sri Lanka government will take immediate action. However, unlike the US diplomat, Muslims see the situation differently since no legal action has been taken so far. On the contrary, the SFM notes the police often puts pressure on Muslims not to file a complaint.

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