Muslims close Sri Lanka mosque after Buddhist unrest

Published: August 12, 2013
Two Muslim women walk behind patrolling Special Task Force Commandos outside the mosque that was vandalised. PHOTO: REUTERS

Two Muslim women walk behind patrolling Special Task Force Commandos outside the mosque that was vandalised. PHOTO: REUTERS


Sri Lanka’s Muslim leaders closed down a new mosque in Colombo on Monday after attacks by a Buddhist mob revived simmering religious tensions.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Council said it had agreed to shut its mosque at Grandpass and move to an older place of worship which the government had earlier earmarked for demolition as part of the capital’s development.

“We have a compromise deal worked out last night,” Council president NM Ameen told AFP.

“The government will rescind the order acquiring the old mosque premises and will grant more land and help with renovations and improvements.

“From today, we are out of the new mosque.”

Buddhist-led mobs vandalised the new mosque, including pelting stones at the building on Saturday, wounding at least four people. Sporadic clashes also erupted on Sunday despite a heavy police presence in the neighbourhood.

The violence comes after Buddhist hardliners attacked several Muslim-run businesses outside Colombo in March, one of a series of incidents targeting the minority group.

US concern

The US embassy in Colombo has expressed concern at the latest violence and urged authorities to prosecute those responsible.

The US, which in March initiated a UN Human Rights Council resolution against Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes against Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, also urged Colombo to ensure religious freedom.

Seventy per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20-million-strong population are Buddhists, while Muslims are the second-largest religious group, making up just under 10 percent.

Objections over new mosque

Buddhists had objected to the setting up of the new mosque near a Buddhist temple even though it was built to replace the older mosque earmarked for demolition in line with city works.

A night curfew was lifted at dawn on Monday, a police spokesperson said, adding that the situation was calm and no fresh incidents had been reported since the government announced the mosque’s closure on Sunday night.

The government held lengthy talks with Muslim and Buddhist leaders on Sunday and announced what Technology Minister Champika Ranawaka described as a “just solution” acceptable to all sides.

“Through a just solution, we have now peacefully solved the issue,” the minister said.

As part of the deal, Buddhists agreed to cut down a Banyan tree, a key Buddhist symbol, that had overshadowed the old mosque and had originally prevented its expansion, residents said.

Hundreds of police, including elite Special Task Force commandos, guarded the area on Monday as workers used power tools to bring down the tree, also located in the Grandpass area.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • ModiFied
    Aug 12, 2013 - 9:34PM

    How come every religious community has problem with Muslims ? isn’t need for introspection and deeper soul searching?


  • Adil
    Aug 12, 2013 - 9:34PM

    This is serious. We should now wait for the coming of Jinnawardene, who will call for top-left corner of Sri Lanka to be made into a new country, Srilankistan, where the muslims of Sri Lanka can freely kill each other.


  • expaki
    Aug 12, 2013 - 9:57PM

    Sunni misread the address and instead their target, shia or ahmadi, they destroyed – shaheed their own Mosque.


  • srilankan buddhist
    Aug 12, 2013 - 10:14PM

    I hate muslim terrorists.


  • suraj
    Aug 12, 2013 - 10:17PM

    @ModiFied… introspection? Sour search??? what does they mean?/


  • Super Star
    Aug 12, 2013 - 10:47PM


    Top comment ! Had me in splits!


  • Sheri
    Aug 12, 2013 - 10:57PM

    I heard that buddist are peace loving like hindus and they do not hurt any living thing.


    Aug 12, 2013 - 11:09PM

    Thats why i believe religions are man made.


  • 1984
    Aug 12, 2013 - 11:34PM

    Organized Religion is like alcohol……..
    Good in small doses,but when it high to your head..You would commit the worst of crimes without even thinking whether its good or bad!!!!


    Aug 12, 2013 - 11:40PM

    @srilankan buddhist:
    and Hate you…You know why!!


    Aug 12, 2013 - 11:42PM

    Now we saw the Truth Face mate..


  • suraj
    Aug 12, 2013 - 11:47PM

    @sheri… i heard of the very same CLASSIC comment by Moeed Pirzada on TV over a discussion on Buddhists…. Do you mean Buddhists should tolerate all types of invasions (by fanatics)?…


  • Dr Dang
    Aug 13, 2013 - 12:02AM

    Top man Adil !!! Cheers


  • optimist
    Aug 13, 2013 - 3:43AM

    It is sad and only happens in shitty countries (not for just one country or religion).
    In the west, when perpetrators of a crime are brought to justice, no one dares repeat that.
    This is what happens when you let culprits of Gujrat (India), Gojra (Pakistan) etc get away. Things are repeated.


  • vasan
    Aug 13, 2013 - 7:15AM

    Adil : You made my day. Hasnt stopped laughing yet


  • Water Bottle
    Aug 13, 2013 - 10:00AM


    “This is what happens when you let culprits of Gujrat (India), Gojra (Pakistan) etc get away. Things are repeated. “

    In Gujrat justice is done.

    All the muslims who burned down the train and resulted in the killing of hundreds of Hindus and Muslims are proven guilty.


  • masmanz
    Aug 13, 2013 - 10:43AM

    @Water Bottle: Yes — Justice India style. Punish the victims and let Modi, the main culprit, run the state.


  • Zia
    Aug 13, 2013 - 8:42PM

    @srilankan buddhist:
    … and Buddhist terrorists, and Hindu fanatics, and Christian fundamentalists, and Zionists, and racists, and every other savage co-habiting this planet.


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