Buddhist hardliners step up violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka
Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:9PM
Sinhala-Buddhist hardliners attacked the Fashion Bug store in the Colombo suburb of Pepiliyana late Thursday, hurled stones at the place, set merchandise on fire and smashed vehicles parked outside.Concerns have mounted over the security of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority, after hundreds of Buddhist hardliners attacked a Muslim clothing store in the country’s largest city, Colombo. Sinhala-Buddhist hardliners attacked the Muslim-owned Fashion Bug store in the Colombo suburb of Pepiliyana late Thursday, hurled stones at the place, set merchandise on fire and smashed vehicles parked outside. At least three people sustained injuries during the attack. Army units were called in to disperse the mob. Official sources say the incident appears to be part of the wave of attacks targeting Sri Lanka’s Muslim population. On Friday, police beefed up security across Sri Lanka and deployed commandos of the elite Special Task Force in Pepiliyana. “We are deploying more mobile patrols in vulnerable areas” across the country, said a senior police official who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that extra police would be stationed to guard popular Muslim-owned shops. The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, an umbrella organization for Sri Lankan Muslim groups, said the Thursday attack marks a new phase in the ethnic violence against the country’s Muslim minority.
“It has created a fear psychosis among the Muslims,” said council president N.M. Ameen.“We know a majority of the (Buddhist) people do not support this type of activity,” he added. Last month, Buddhist hardliners forced Islamic clerics to withdraw "halal" certification from food. In January, mobs pelted stones at another Muslim-owned clothing chain near Colombo. Muslim businessmen have also complained of random stone-throwing, intimidation and calls for the boycott of their shops. Earlier this year, President Mahinda Rajapakse called on the Buddhist monks not to provoke religious hatred and violence in the country. Muslims comprise 10 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million. ASH/JR