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Religious Unrest Continues in Sri Lanka

An attack was launched by a Buddhist mob against a Mosque in Colombo on Saturday August 10th 2013, just one day after Muslims celebrated “Eid Ul Fitr”. At least 12 people were injured in scuffles that broke out during the siege. The reason for the attack was based on the claim that the new three-storey structure on […]

An attack was launched by a Buddhist mob against a Mosque in Colombo on Saturday August 10th 2013, just one day after Muslims celebrated “Eid Ul Fitr”. At least 12 people were injured in scuffles that broke out during the siege.

The reason for the attack was based on the claim that the new three-storey structure on Swarna Chaithya Road in Grandpass was an unauthorized building. However, the Mosque authorities had received a letter from the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs,permitting the functioning of the mosque at its new premises at No. 158 after the old Molawatte mosque on No. 166 of the same road had been acquired by order of the Urban Development Authority (UDA).

Led by Buddhist monks (allegedly the Sinhala Ravaya), the mob numbering around 50 to 60 (which later swelled to 200), started stoning the Mosque just five minutes after “Maghrib” (after sunset prayers) began. The signal for the attack was the ringing of bells at the adjoining Pansala (Buddhist Temple). About 20 to 25 men then tried to invade the Mosque building. They broke down the locked door and entered.

When the mob tried to enter, the imam (prayer leader) at the time, Mohammed Arshad Moulavi and other elders moved all the people from the first and second floors to the top floor. Two youths and three elderly persons on the ground floor were seized by the mob and severely assaulted. They sustained injuries and were later hospitalized. One person’s condition is reportedly critical.

Despite the presence of around 40 Policemen, with more Police personnel arriving as the attack was in progress, the Police were passive spectators. No arrests were made.

As news of the attack spread, the Muslims in the area rushed to the Mosque. Among these were office bearers of the Islamic organization known as the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath. They were joined by other Muslim elders. Together they started asking the Police to disperse the mob and safeguard the Mosque, however the Police were trying to disperse the crowd of concerned Muslims instead.

As more and more Police arrived, the Muslim leaders kept on demanding that the mob be dispersed and ring leaders arrested, but top Police officials insisted that the Muslims leave the area first. The Muslim leaders, particularly the Thowheed Jamath officials, flatly refused to leave unless the people wanting to destroy the Mosque were arrested or dispersed and the Mosque’s security guaranteed.

A large number of Muslim youths then managed to rally to defend the mosque, resulting in the mob dispersing from the scene, with the help of the Police. A curfew was declared until 7 a.m. Sunday morning and again from 6 p.m. Sunday evening to 7 a.m. Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the next day (August 11) a meeting was held at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, where the Government has decided to revoke the UDA order and return the old Molawatte mosque located at 166 Swarna Chaithya Road back to Muslim devotees. It was decided at the meeting that the Bo Tree on the premises would be removed and the mosque be granted permission to expand.

While Grandpass is reportedly calm after angry mobs on both sides decided to accept the compromise, the Secretariat for Muslims (SFM) continues to monitor the situation. The SFM has also documented all the hate incidents perpetrated against Muslims from January 2013, in an effort to provide an accurate synopsis of the anti-Muslim hate campaign that erupted this year.

Dated August 12th, 2013