Muslims demand an end to hate campaign

The Sri Lanka Muslim Council has written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa raising concerns regarding the recent incidents targeting Muslims in the country.

In the letter, the Muslim Council says the Muslim community has recently been targeted by extreme Buddhist groups for virulent attacks of hate and abuse on the basis of religious beliefs and cultural practices and erroneous assumptions regarding the increase in our numbers.

It says the groups who are targeting all minority religions have created a great sense of unease among Muslims throughout the country.

“Their campaign has also affected all businesses—not just Muslims—and resulted in a threat to the maintenance of law and order affecting all communities. These groups have been using the traditional media, social media, public meetings, posters, leaflets, and the circulation of rumours and misinformation insulting Muslims to inculcate a sense of fear and hatred of Muslims among Sinhalese. They are using abusive language when referring to our religious practices and publicly calling for a boycott of businesses run by Muslims,” the letter signed by the President of the Muslim Council N.M. Ameen stated.

He noted that Muslims are being targeted by some Buddhist extremist groups for wearing the hijab and abhaya, the beard and thobe and more specifically, the nikab.

“Sections of our community hold these practices to be very important, and we strongly reject the criticisms that have been directed against them and charges of extremism leveled against them. The Muslim community, like all other communities in the country, consists of diverse groups many of whom do not prescribe to some of the above dress practices, and may not even agree with them. However, we consider it to be the right of all Muslims to choose to practice their religion as they see fit,” the letter said..

The letter also says rumors are also circulating about Muslim armed groups operating in the East. The Muslim Council says if there are such groups they should be apprehended and dealt with immediately through due process of the law.

“If this is not the case, then urgent steps should be taken to prevent the rumor-mongering. We Muslims consider ourselves to be citizens of this country with an equal entitlement to enjoy the many geographical beauties, the constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms and the promise of post war economic development; and while doing so we expect to fully enjoy the right to practice our religion and culture in a manner that is in no way harmful to other religious communities. More than anything else we also demand our right to live without being targeted by groups whose reach at the grass roots levels and whose exposure through media is causing a wave of hate towards us among the Sinhalese,” the letter adds.

The Muslim Council has urged the President to take decisive action by publicly condemning the hate campaign of the Buddhist extremists, continue to proclaim publicly that the minorities are equal citizens and equitable stakeholders in the country, instruct the police to take necessary action to stop incidents of harassment against minorities and their businesses, empower the police to respond to instances where such forces try to take the law in to their own hands and ensure that the authorities take action against the media when they contribute to the propagation of this hate sentiment. (Colombo Gazette)