ucanews.com reporter, ColomboUpdated: July 26, 2019 07:55 AM GMT
Sri Lankan Catholic priests walk past a damaged Muslim shop after a mob attack in western Minuwangoda on May 15. (Photo by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP)
A gang in Sri Lanka hung a pig's head in front of a Muslim shop three months after the April 21 Easter Sunday Islamic suicide bombings that rocked the nation.
And monks in the island nation have accused Muslim doctor Siyabdeen Mohammed Safi of covertly sterilizing 4,000 Buddhist women.
These examples are among a plethora of cases cited by minority rights campaigner Nuwan Athukorala of Muslims being victimized in retaliation for the attacks on churches and luxury hotels that claimed more than 250 lives.
Athukorala this week also referred to the fact that monk-turned-politician Athuraliye Rathana conducted a protest hunger strike demanding the removal of two government ministers he accused of being linked to the Jihadi group National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ).
The government banned the NTJ and as well as another militant outfit, Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI), in the wake of the Easter carnage.
Another prominent monk, Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera, has accused Islamic restaurant owners of drugging food served to non-Muslims to make them sterile and over time reduce the majority-Buddhist population.
However, Athukorala notes that the rabble-rousing has all been based on fabricated allegations.
"Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic majoritarianism that prevails in Sri Lanka is very dangerous," Athukorala said.
He also referred to Muslim journalists who were black-banned by Buddhist media practitioners at July 21 events to commemorate the April 21 attacks.
Buddhists make up 70 percent of the nation's 21 million population, while Muslims account for about 10 percent.
Sri Lanka has a long history of ethno-religious tragedies, not least the 1983-2009 civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people died.
Twenty-two days after this year's Easter bombings, Buddhist mobs went on rampages, attacking mosques as well as Muslim businesses, homes and vehicles.
Violent incidents in the cities of Naththandiya, Minuwangoda, Negombo, Chilaw and Kurunegala occurred despite a government-imposed curfew.
In recent years, hard-line groups such as Buddhist Power Force, Mahasohon Balakaya, Sinhala Ravaya and Ravana Balaya have preached hatred against Muslims and issued threats against them.
In 2014, four people were killed in clashes in the coastal town of Aluthgama, with more than 2,000 displaced and 17 mosques attacked.
The Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) was accused of instigating the strife.
The BBS is also suspected of involvement in 2018 anti-Muslim riots in Kandy, central Sri Lanka.
Nearly 450 Muslim homes and shops were damaged and more than 20 mosques were attacked.
Athukorala has publicly complained that most Sri Lankan politicians exploit ethnic and religious extremism.
Human rights defender Aruna Shantha Nonis believes existing laws governing religious practices mitigate against communal harmony.
And Father Noel Dias, a lecturer at the Sri Lankan Law College, said such laws were ineffective without fundamental changes in people's attitudes to faiths other than their own.
In this respect, religious leaders themselves needed to reconsider their roles in society, said Father Dias, who is also chaplain of the Catholic Lawyers' Guild.
He cited the isolation of many religious leaders from their faithful, and failure to act as spiritual role models, as contributing towards religious disharmony in Sri Lanka.