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Sri Lanka: Monks Demand Demolition of a Mosque

Categories: South Asia, Sri Lanka, Human Rights, Law, Politics, Religion

Although Sri Lanka is a multi-religious and multi-cultural society, recent cases of religious intolerance has kept the blogosphere debating on this notion. Last Friday around 2,000 Buddhist monks and local residents staged a violent protest [1] in Dambulla town demanding that a mosque along with a Hindu temple situated in an area designated as a Buddhist sacred zone be demolished.

The police evacuated the mosque and its Friday prayers were cancelled [2]. Local Muslims claim that the mosque is there for 50 years.

According to Raashid Riza [3]:

Reports suggest that the mosque had been hurled at with petrol bombs the night before, causing minor damage, and security forces were deployed to control the situation. The targeting of the Muslim community was instigated by a group of racist Sinhalese individuals, consisting largely of hooligans, who were motivated by the uproar and attention such an act would create, rather than by any identifiable ideology.

A Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Image by Angelo Samarawickrema.Copyright Demotix [4]

A Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Image by Angelo Samarawickrema.Copyright Demotix

Groundviews [5] posts the contracts of the mosque and asks how can the structure be illegal. The debate went further as the Government had decided to demolish [6] the mosque after caving in to public demand. Moreover, Groundviews [7] reveals:

The Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, one of the key figures in the on-going tensions in Dambulla [8] over the presence of a mosque and kovil near his Temple, perhaps in response to the public outcry against the violence instigated by him, has told the BBC [9] that TV footage that showed monks engaged in violence – including one monk disrobing and exposing himself [8] to the mosque – were fake.

However evidences show otherwise. Inamaluwe Sumangala thero is the Director General of the private radio station Rangiri Radio and on both the homepage of the Rangiri Radio website, and on the Facebook page, the following video appears which showcase the most violent moments of the mob:

Sri Lankan Doctor [10] comments:

The Buddhist monks of Dambulla embarrassed the Buddhists world over by the way they conducted themselves on 20.4.2012.

The Dambulla mosque attack has to be seen in isolation regarding the Muslim-Buddhist bond the country witnessed over centuries and it is not going to be broken just because of a few such incidents. This Tweet from the Muslim community supports that thought:

@muslimLK [11]: We #Muslims in #srilanka need to handle #dambulla in a sensible, legally permitted & exemplary manner rather than confrontation, inshallah

Serendipity [12] reminds in a blog post:

No matter what religious bigots may profess, Sri Lanka has not as a nation, taken responsibility for exclusively protecting Theravada Buddhism or that the country is solely a Buddhist country. The constitution just states that “Buddhism should be safeguarded and nourished” and if that wording is open to interpretation, we may have to ask the Supreme Court to determine what was meant by that statement.

Indi.ca [13], who has covered the news extensively, comments:

Muslims are Sri Lankans. They are neighbors and friends. Yet today they are an ethnic minority which, while on the rise economically, is viewed with suspicion by many. [..]

Seriously people, this is a small island and we all have to live together. Forget the culture conflicts and petty annoyances, Muslims are friends and neighbors and they deserve to be treated the way.. [..] Whatever the specifics of the case, it is damn important to emphasize that the Sri Lankan Muslim community is a vital part of Sri Lanka, a respected part of Sri Lanka, and, ultimately, family.

I’m sorry about the Dambulla thing. I hope we’re still cool.