Sri Lankan minister warns of Muslim radicalization

Police officers walk through a Muslim neighborhood in Darga Town, in Aluthgama about 50 km south of Colombo.

Police officers walk through a Muslim neighborhood in Darga Town, in Aluthgama about 50 km south of Colombo.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: A top Sri Lankan minister on Friday warned that the country’s Muslim minority could become radicalized if they continue to be subjected to attacks and false allegations of extremism by majority Buddhist nationalists.

Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem told a meeting with foreign correspondents that the government must act against groups propagating hatred against Muslims and those responsible for recent violence in the southwest.

Two Muslims were killed and dozens of others were wounded last month after the Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Balal Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, held a rally in which they called for the destruction of Muslim-owned shops. Hours later, many homes and shops were looted and burnt.

The nationalists spread fear with statements such as that Muslims are trying to take over the country by increasing their population and secretly sterilizing majority Sinhalese. They also say Muslim fundamentalist ideologies from other countries are taking root among the locals and that it can lead to terrorism.

“All types of perceptions which are taking root due to the stereotyping (are) very dangerous,” Hakeem said, adding that stigma could lead to radicalization of the community.

Referring to Sri Lanka’s Muslims, he said: “A community which is pushed against the wall like this will suddenly become a fertile ground for outside forces.”

Hakeem said that Muslims are upset that there is no remorse expressed for the violence by the authorities.

Police questioned two persons, including a radical monk who is the leader of Bodu Balal Sena, the Rev. Galagode Atte Gnanasara. Both men spoke at the rally that turned deadly but were soon released.


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