Islamophobia andattacks on Muslimsin Sri LankaIncident Map
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During the past year, there has been anunprecedented level of violent attacks,demonstrations and hate speechtargeting Sri Lanka’s eight per centMuslim population. Mainly perpetratedby Buddhist fundamentalist groups, theevents have left the country’s secondlargest minority community – theMuslims – feeling afraid and vulnerable.The response from the Government ofSri Lanka (GoSL) has been limited.Police inaction in some cases hasenabled violence to take place andthere have been few arrests.The ‘Bodu Bala Sena’ or ‘Buddhistpower force’ is the main group behindthe targeting of Muslims. Appeals byMuslim civil society to the GoSL to takeaction against this group have met withlittle positive response. On 27 January2013, President Mahinda Rajapakshareportedly met monks and members ofthe Bodu Bala Sena and asked them toavoid conﬂicts with other religiouscommunities. The President’s statementat this meeting was only publicised inthe English language and not in theSinhalese language media, thereby notreaching a large number of supportersof the Bodu Bala Sena. In his speechon Independence Day, 4 February 2013,there was again a call to stop incitingracial hatred. While these initiativesmust be welcomed, they are far fromadequate considering the level ofviolence and hatred being unleashedon Muslims at present.MRG has received reports of otherreligious communities facing seriousproblems too. However the Muslimcommunity is currently facing aconcerted campaign against them.In addition to attacks on places ofreligious worship there are calls toboycott Muslim shops andestablishments, all of which isincreasing tensions, particularly in areaswhere Muslims and Sinhalese live closeto each other. The incidents againstMuslims are widespread across thecountry and have picked upmomentum during the last months.Here are some of the major events thathave taken place since April 2012.
Islamophobiaand attackson Muslimson the rise inSri Lanka
To the Governmentof Sri Lanka
Take immediate action to protect allreligious minority communities fromviolent attacks, threats of violenceas well as incitement to religioushatred. Community property,including places of religiousproperty, must be protected andaccess ensured. This protectionresponsibility extends to ensuringthe safety and well-being ofpotentially vulnerable groups withinminority communities, includingwomen, children, the elderly andpersons with disabilities.
Take immediate action to investigateimpartially all attacks against allplaces of religious worship.Prosecute those involved in theattacks in accordance with SriLankan law.
Take immediate action to enforce SriLankan law with regard to theactivities of fundamentalist groupsthat engage in attacks on places ofreligious worship in line withinternational human rights norms.
Take immediate action to draftlegislation regarding the prevention ofreligious intolerance and hate speech.The drafting process must include fullconsultation with minority communityrepresentatives in relevant languages.
Take immediate action to implementLessons Learned & ReconciliationCommission (LLRC)recommendations on freedom ofreligion and minority rights.
Take action to promote the religiousfreedom of all communities inaccordance with internationalhuman rights standards.
Respond to communications madeby the UN Special Rapporteur onFreedom of Religion or Belief andthe Independent Expert on MinorityIssues and invite them to visit andreport on Sri Lanka.
Finally, the President should make apublic statement, in all nationallanguages, condemning acts ofviolence and incitement to religioushatred against Muslims and all othercommunities and assure minoritiesthat their rights will be protected.
To UN Human RightsCouncil (HRC)member states
Ensure a strong UN HRC resolutionon Sri Lanka that establishes aninternational, independent andimpartial mechanism to investigateviolations of international humanrights and humanitarian normsduring the recent armed conﬂict inSri Lanka as well as currentviolations, including with regard toreligious freedom and minorityrights.
Use their bilateral communicationswith the GoSL to raise their concernabout the on-going attacks onMuslims and call for immediatemeasures to be taken to ensure theprotection of Muslim and all otherminority communities.
In addition to the protests and attacks, there has been a spate of online hatecampaigns targeting Muslims. These campaigns have run on social networkingsites and also appear as responses to comments and news on other websites.The campaigns use degrading and threatening language about Muslims and onsome occasions insult Islamic beliefs and texts. There is also currently a majorcampaign against the system of issuing halal certiﬁcates, which at present isdone by a national level Muslim religious body.