Sri Lanka’s Muslims Under Siege?
Image Credit: Joseph Hammond

Sri Lanka’s Muslims Under Siege?


Colombo’s suburb of Dehiwala is probably best known for housing the Colombo Zoo. But late last month, it became the site of a wild protest at a small mosque, a protest that has many Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka worried.

On the morning of May 30, police officials reportedly informed the leader of the Dehiwala branch of the Association of Muslim Youth of Seylan that an illegal demonstration was likely to take place at the group’s mosque. Sheikh Ramsy was instructed to cancel madrassa lessons.

True to the warning, by midday, some 200 demonstrators led by several dozen Buddhist monks allegedly converged on the small Islamic center and began throwing stones and rotten meat over the gate at the mosque. Fortunately, most projectiles landed harmlessly in front of the mosque. Protestors shouted slogans demanding the closure of the mosque, claiming it was performing daily animal sacrifices, a charge the mosque denies.

“This charge is really unbelievable and shows how little they know about the religion of Islam. We only conduct sacrifices associated with the Eid ul-Adha and often the meat is distributed to poor families,” Sheikh Rasmy explains.

The incident is the latest in a string of serious incidents involving extremist Buddhist provocations against Muslims in Sri Lanka. In April, for example, 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 are said to have drafted a threatening letter aimed at Muslims in the nearby town of Kurunegala, demanding Islamic prayer services there be halted.

Reza, a clerk at the Darul Iman Islamic Book House in Colombo, says he is confused by the outbreak of intolerance. “We in the Muslim community aren’t used to anything like this. But the last few months have seen new tensions across the country. We aren’t sure why this is happening now. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus we have all lived together for a long-time.”

During, the 30-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam and the central government, the island’s Muslims, though Tamil-speaking, sided with the government against the LTTE. This was in part a result of thousands of Muslims being ejected from Jaffna in the early 1990s. During the conflict, the Sinhalese Buddhist majority courted the island’s Muslims, and many Muslims rose to prominent bureaucratic positions, while a handful even served in the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Indigenous Sri Lankans
April 4, 2013 at 13:53

I can't understand why this issue has grown out of proportion. the buddhist and muslims have been living very cordially. If we turn back to past we can see, there are some actions of muslims which cause for this matter. Major incidents are Kuragala and Muhudu Maha viharaya. Lets have a look one by one. 

Kuragala is a vast buddhist monastery complex 18 km's off Balangoda on the Kaltota road. This complex covers number of rock outcrops which is collectively known as Kuragala. The ruins of the complex dates back to the 2nd centaury BC and has been declared a archeological reserve by the the government. The Monastery covers 30-40 rock caves, some capable of holding 2000-3000 people.  this monastery has been called 'Thandulayia Pabbatha' in ancient times.

Muhudu maha vihara is a Buddhist temple situated at Pottuvil in Eastern province of Sri Lanka. This temple is situated near a wide beach. In this temple there have a stone made statue of lord Buddha and two statues of old kings or gods. In today also there is a Buddhist temple. This temple is built in Anuradapura era by king Kaavantissa. As folklore princess Vihara Maha Devi had come to hear. The temple site which is under the heavy threat of encroachment by villagers has been reduced to a small shrine with three granite statues. The central statue is of the Buddha with two more sculptures believed to be those of royalty facing it. Believed to have been built in the 5th century A.D during the reign of King Dhathusena, many believe the royal figures depicted in worshiping position are to be those of King Kavantissa and his Queen Vihara Maha Devi.

Unfortunately these buddhist temples are now taken over by Muslim fundamentalists and in the process of systematically destroying all the evidence of the 2000 year old buddhist heritage. As  peaceable civilians, we think if muslims are remove their mosques and handover these temples back to the Buddhist will help to build peace between Buddhist and Muslims in Sri Lanka. It will be a good full stop to the present situation in Sri Lanka. Beacuse destroying a religious place is hurt people either it is a mosque or not.





Buddhist in other country
January 28, 2013 at 04:17

Shame on you such anti-buddhistic guys, though I'm also a buddhist in other Asian country.

I'm proud of being a buddhist, as a follower of awakened Buddha's teaching  of peace of mind and mercy. 

But as I know, these kinds of thinking and absurd justification of the violence are not in any Buddha's teaching. 
Namo amituofuo

December 29, 2012 at 23:33

What you sown, will be reaped by you…  a Tamil saying.   This is the solution for Srilanka

December 3, 2012 at 13:32

Making srilanka a peacful country depends on its civilians, infact when we have enough problems to worry about why would people try draw a problem of religions. its really an unfair practice.

October 29, 2012 at 03:14

What about LTTE killing 140 Muslims in Kattankudy while they were praying and also the thousands of Muslims and Sinhalese they killed? We Muslims sided with the government because the Tamils were trying to categorise the Moors as Tamils for their own political gains eventhough we are a distinct ethnic race and we knew that under Ealem we would be persecuted and murdered!

August 4, 2012 at 04:54

I changed my religion from Buddhism to Christianity, simply because of the unacceptable behavior of Buddhists mainly from Sri Lanka and  Burma.  
I feel shame to be a Buddhist in this point of time where these BUDDHIST MONKS are killing poor civilians while Lord Buddha has preached to practice peace and compassion. 

June 29, 2012 at 19:21

One things I was always proud of was seeing how in Sri Lanka you could have a mosque, next to a temple, next to a church, and have all be an active and supporting influenece on the community.
To Budusaranai – you should be ashamed to called yourself a buddhist and yet talk so much hatred – that is not Buddhist behaviour – “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule” – not my words, you should know whose.
We should all be tolerant (we don't have to be best friends, but we should be mutually respectful), and behaviour outside of that by any party should not be supported.

June 27, 2012 at 11:17

Very sobering indeed. The dangers of letting priests get too much political power appears to be a problem not just for those following Abrahamic faiths but also for what many in West see as more more peaceful and tolerent Buddhist faith.  Only the Chinese perhaps have during their long history worked out how to keep the priests away from the levers of power. This is one think we all can learn from the Chinese.

singing fish
June 26, 2012 at 13:14

All must live in peace whether they are buddists,hindus,christians or muslims.During the war,muslims supported the goverment overwhelmly for their own benifit,even the muslim home guards in eastern province with the help of soldiers killed thousands of tamils.muslims are like chameleon.Tamils will forget and forgive muslims for their behaviour during the war.Now, muslims must come foward to fight for our right.

June 26, 2012 at 12:33

We Buddhists and monks were against other religions, Muslims and other religions cant grow to this level. But Buddhists have let you grow, to build your worship places, listening the noice of prayers all the day. But now Buddhists anr in DANGER. Many Buddhist temples have been destroyed by Muslims in Eastern province although they were historical sites. Thats what your relations in Afganistan did for giant Bamian Buddha statues. Afganistan also were a great Buddhist civilization a long time ago.
You people should be honest to speak the truth. This is the land of Buddhists. We can allow you to live in peace, but dont expect to grab the right the buddhists have in this country.  we have to protect our religion for the world.

June 26, 2012 at 06:33

Rauf Hakkim MP of the SLMC said before he started enjoying the ministerial portfolio and ensuing perks that the government would finish ethnic Tamils before turning on Muslims. He was proved right. The Buddhist monks headed by JHU, a costituent of the UPFA coalition in the government started to demolish Mosques and build Buddhist viharas. Many Hindu temples and churches were rezed to the government and the mono-ethnic military build settlements in Tamil speaking ares like Israelists do in Westbank and Gaza.

June 26, 2012 at 05:57

The opening statement of this article is a no-brainer! It is overly optimistic to the point of being chicane to expect to be 'united' after a catastrophic ethno-religious war waged by the state to expect tranquility amidst war crimes and gross human rights and humanitarian crimes! After 64 years of relentless crimes against Tamils now the curtain is falling down on the Muslims led by monks. This cannot happen in a a number of towns and even in Colombo led by monks without the knowledge of politicians in power and the police! It is an endless spiral of violence based on the 'Mahavamsa'  cult dating back to the 4th century AD! It is caught up with the muslims too. Unfortunately there is no no internal cure because it is the real politics of independent Sri lanka. Mosques in  4 towns have been under siege -Dambulla, A'pura, Kurunegala  and now in Colombo. After all the first riot started in 1915 against Muslims and the British used martial law to bring it under control. Now it is Sinhala Only Rule applies.  Anything goes!!!          

June 26, 2012 at 03:27

"The vast majority of the island’s Muslims are the descendants of Persian and Arab traders who settled on the island."
Contrary to popular belief the Sri Lankan Muslims are not predominantly Arab in origin:
"In actual fact, the Muslims of Sri Lanka are a mixture of Arab, Persian, Dravidian (South Indian) and Malay blood of which the Dravidian element, because of centuries of heavy Indian injection has remained the dominant one"

- Ameer Ali, The Muslim Factor in the Sri Lankan Ethnic Crisis, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (1997)

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