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Sri Lankan Muslims targeted


photo: BBCphoto: BBC

Sri Lanka Muslims are pleading for help after three Muslims were killed and scores injured when radical Buddhists attacked the southern Sri Lankan coastal towns, as security forces ignored Muslim pleas to stop the rampage.

“Currently we are facing a tense situation at some parts of the island,” a Sri Lankan Muslim wrote to OnIslam.net on Monday, June 16.

“Muslims have been attacked brutally by some extremist Buddhist groups, killing 3 peoples and injuring more than 80 Muslim civilians,” he added.

The rampage erupted on Sunday’s night when a protest march by the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) turned into a mob attack against Muslims in the popular resort towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala.

The Sinhala Buddhists’ attacks, that targeted Muslim properties and mosques in the Muslim-majority towns, have left at least three Muslims killed and more than 80 injured.

In spite of Muslim leader’s repeated calls to offer protection and security to Muslims in the area, police failed to protect the religious minority.

“Some Buddhists are deliberately targeting Muslims. But unfortunately police have not been able to protect the minorities,” Hilmy Ahmed, the spokesman of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera.

The imposed curfew in the area couldn’t deter the Buddhists attacks.

“The curfew was extended to a neighboring area to prevent an escalation of clashes,” a police spokesman said.

“The curfew is only for Muslims, not for the rioters,” Fathima Fazniya, a 65-year-old retired teacher, told Reuters.

Reports say that violence extended to Lathugana town, despite the curfew imposed in Aluthgama and Beruwala.

“A petty feud between two individuals has been allowed to take a religious tone,” the Muslim Council’s Ahmed said.

“The extremist Buddhists led by Bodu Bala Sena attacked Muslims and are still in the area despite the curfew.”

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.

Large-scale Destruction

According to Muslim community leaders, the Buddhists attacks have left a large-scale destruction of the religious minority’s properties in the popular tourist town of Alutgama, around 60km south of the capital Colombo.

“At least nine shops and up to 40 houses have been gutted in Aluthgama, while three mosques were attacked,” Ahmed, the spokesman of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, said.

“They (the rioters) came in … lorries behind the police and looted all our houses. Then they torched my house,” said Fazniya, the 65-year-old retired teacher.

“They are well organized.”

Coming under pressure by his supporters to resign after Sunday’s anti-Muslims attacks, Rauf Hakeem, justice minister, has blamed the hardline Buddhist mobs for the violence, urging “all relevant parties to remain calm and not to instigate further violence”.

“I just can’t understand a government which prevents even a trade union or student protesters going to protest marches … allowing the BBS to conduct the meeting,” Hakeem, the leader of the country’s largest Muslim party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, noted.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also condemned the attacks, issuing a statement that he will not allow “anyone to take the law into their own hand”.

“An investigation will be held for [the] law to take its course of action to bring to book those responsible for incidents in Alutgama,” he said on Twitter.

“I urge all parties concerned to act with restraint.”

The attacks are not the first to target the Muslim community.

Religious minorities like Muslims and Christians in the Asian Island have been facing “systematic violence” that points figure at the state’s involvement.

In May, the Asian Island has taken the first legal action against Sri Lanka’s extremist Buddhists when four of Sri Lanka’s fanatic Buddhist monks were summoned by a Colombo court over insulting the Noble Qur’an.

Last year, Sri Lanka has been thrown into tension following a string of serious incidents involving extremist Buddhist provocations against Muslims.

In March 2013, Bodu Bala Sena called for the demolition of a 10th century mosque in Kuragala.

The call has followed the group campaigns against halal food in Sri Lanka to force Muslims abandon halal logo on food products.

In April 2013, 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.

In June 2013, 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. OnIslam

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