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Rauf Hakeem’s ‘damning’ report by Gihan Nicholas

The contents of the 50-page document titled, ‘Religious violence in Sri Lanka,’ which was handed over to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay by Minister of Justice, Rauff Hakeem, who is also the Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), has been made available to Ceylon Today.

The document has been described by the SLMC as ‘an update of Muslim’s concerns by the SLMC to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.’

Minister Hakeem as the Leader of the SLMC came under severe rap by President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself and several other political parties, including the National Freedom Front (NFF), Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a self-professed organization acting in the interest of preserving the rights of the Sinhala Buddhist majority.

In the aftermath of the report being handed over to Pillay, media speculations were rife that Minister Hakeem had been severely censured during a Cabinet meeting, which then followed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa asking him to decide on the loyalty of the Congress towards the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government.
Moreover, Minister Mervyn Silva, imbued by his true patriotic spirit has warned the Leader of the SLMC that Prabhakaran’s fate awaits anyone resorting to treacherous activities against the country.

The report states that during the 12-month period from January to December 2013, there have been approximately 241 anti-Muslim attacks in the country, which has been complimented by a further 61 anti-Christian attacks.
The report articulates that 51 of the anti-Muslim incidents were violent, while the same has been said regarding 15 attacks on Christians. It connotes that the attacks, which were violent in nature, constituted either of physical violence against individuals or destruction of property. However, the annexure of the report highlights that there were no significant attacks against Buddhists or Hindus.

According to the report, around 118 attacks depicted in the report have been blamed on socio-political movements or politicians. The SLMC’s report has blamed law enforcement agencies and officials for their alleged dormancy by stating that in almost all incidents they had failed to protect the fundamental and constitutional rights of the respective victims or organizations.
The most number of anti-Muslim attacks, according to the report, on a district-scale has been registered in the Districts of Kegalle (31), Kurunegala (21), Kandy (17) and Kalutara (10), areas that have a high demographic concentration of Sinhala Buddhists.

Meanwhile, the least number anti-Muslim attacks as mentioned in the SLMC’s 2013 report has been reported from Nuwara Eliya (1), Moneragala (1), Polonnaruwa (1) and Jaffna (2).
With respect to anti-Christian attacks on a district basis, the Districts of Colombo and Hambantota are at the forefront with each district recording nine and 14 incidents respectively, while Districts of Ratnapura and Kurunegala have recorded one incident each.

List of incidents

A chronological brief of several occurrences of significance as contained in the report are as follows:

5 January – Anuradhapura: Demonstration against Anuradhapura Malwathuoya Mosque is held by monks. Demonstrators demand immediate removal of the mosque and the Muslims living around the mosque with immediate effect. Government Agent promises that within three months necessary action to evacuate Muslims would be taken.

6 January – Nuwara Eliya: Talawakelle Jamiaul Anwar Madrasa set on fire by an unidentified group. Madrasa building was totally demolished and another building was half burnt by the fire. Police said the fire may have occurred due to an electric leakage, but the people in the area suspect that a group was behind the incident.

7 January – Nationwide: A calendar against halal certification is distributed at a Buddhist temple by the Chief Incumbent of the Temple.

7 January – Colombo: Sihala Ravaya and the Student’s Association of the Law College protest against the increase of Muslim students entering the Law College.

9 January – Anuradhapura: The Anuradhapura Malwathuoya Mosque is attacked for a third time.

16 January – Jaffna: A group of people arrive in a white van during morning prayers and attempt to kidnap a well-known Muslim businessman.

22 January – Nationwide: The Bodu Bala Sena declares that newly-established Mosques are ‘bunkers of Jihad’.

22 January – Nationwide: Minister Patali Champika Ranawake says the halal certificate is necessary only for goods produced for consumption by Muslims and not good to be consumed by others.

25 January – Nationwide: In a blatant show of racism, a Tamil newspaper refers to the on-going anti-Muslim hate campaign as a conflict between pigs and donkeys.

30 January – Galle: The Muslim banking unit of LOLC was attacked by an unknown gang.

1 February – Kandy: Slogans appear on the walls of mosques and surrounding areas stating ‘this is a Sinhala country, live carefully.’ Also a road sign which read, ‘Siththy Lebbe Mawatha’ is changed to ‘Vidyaratha Mawatha’ overnight.

7 February – Kurunegala: An unknown gang posts threatening letters to Muslim shopkeepers stating that if they do not close by March 2013, the shops would be ‘destroyed’.

17 February – Colombo: BBS Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera gives an ultimatum to the government to ban halal certification by 31 March. More than 1,300 Buddhist monks and a gathering of 15,000 people attend the rally. BBS unveiled what it called a ‘historic’ Maharagama Declaration, a 10-point resolution that seeks to impose a ban on halal certified foods, sending Sri Lankan women to the Middle East, and certain birth control methods that they claimed were aimed at stunning the Sinhalese population. Crowds leaving the rally reacted angrily to a three-member BBC film crew who were shooting the rally. Police officers at the scene were siding with the mob. A journalist from the Navamini Muslim newspaper was also harassed by the crowd and handed over to the Mahargama Police.

19 February – Kegalle: The Principal of a Sinhalese school orders female Muslim students not to come to school with their headscarf (Hijab).

20 February – Nationwide: The BBS compares the Jamiyathul Ulama to the LTTE.

21 February – Nationwide: The BBS complains that Muslims who return from Mecca after Umrah or Hajj are spreading Islamic fundamentalism in Sri Lanka.

21 February – Galle: Posters appear that call for an anti-Muslim propaganda gathering in Galle (on 16 March). Also says that this is the first suicide squad for the race.

22 February – Galle: The Galle, Hirimbura Mohideen Jumma Mosque attacked.

27 February – Matara: Three Muslim girls are attacked by Sinhalese youth who threaten them to stop wearing their hijab and abayas.

28 February – Kegalle: The Kegalle Jumma Mosque is attacked.

2 March – Kalutara: A group of around 120 Sinhalese people try to stop a halal slaughtering house in the town.

3 March – Ratnapura: A mosque is attacked in Opanayake.

3 March – Gampaha: The 60-year-old Mahara Mosque was defaced with images of pigs and anti-Muslim hate slogans.

3 March – Gampaha: The Superintendent of the Mahara Prison (located close to the local mosque), orders the mosque administration to close the mosque down. The mosque has been in the area for over 100 years.

5 March – Gampaha: A government minister orders the removal of a mosque in Mahara.

5 March – Nationwide: The JHU publishes a book titled Halal Facts and Lies in Sinhala criticizing the Halal concept.

6 March – A Muslim lady doctor attached to the Colombo South Teaching Hospital is attacked by a Buddhist extremist.

7 March – Champika Ranawaka says Jamiyathul Ulama does not have a right to issue the halal certificate.

12 March – Batticaloa: Leaflets are issued against the Muslims to remove Muslims from Maha Oya. The leaflets state: ‘Maha Oya is an ancient town that belongs to us. We have to chase the Muslims away and protect our town.’

14 March – Nationwide: BBS Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera says they do not accept the decision taken by the ACJU, regarding the halal issue.

15 March – Nationwide: Minister Champika Ranawake launches two books; Islamic Fundamentalism, Past, Present and Future and Al Jihad and Al Qaida.

16 March – Nationwide: BBS President declares that Muslim women wearing black abayas are insulting other ethnic groups.

17 March – Kandy: The BBS holds a massive rally to announce their victory against halal certification. BBS General Secretary claims the Defence Secretary had provided an assurance that the Halal logo would be withdrawn from the country and that a special police unit would be set up to carry out inspections.

17 March – Nationwide: Ven. Sobhitha Thera delivers a speech against Muslims in Pitipane Purana Vihara. ‘You Muslims can circumcise yourself, but don’t try to do that with us Buddhists.’

17 March – Kandy: BBS announces that its next move is to free Kurunegala from Muslims.

18 March – Nationwide: JHU Parliamentarian Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera says ‘Go to Allah’s country if you need halal’.

19 March – Islandwide: The BBS accuses Muslim extremist groups of the recent assault on Sri Lankan Buddhist monks in India.

21 March – Kandy: A Sinhalese man snatches the cap off a Moulavi’s head and tramples it.

24 March – Nationwide: The BBS urges Sinhalese to ‘protect the nation and not let other races or religions to take over.’

24 March – Nationwide: The BBS Secretary demands that the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Singapore, Ferial Ashraff be terminated immediately since she has been working against the interests of Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

27 March – Kegalle: Buddhist flags are displayed in Sinhalese shops so that Muslim shops are easy to identify and avoid.

28 March – Colombo: A warehouse belonging to Fashion Bug (a leading Muslim-owned textile establishment) is attacked by a mob as police stand by and watch. A group of 20, led by a few monks quickly swelled to 300.

31 March – Kurunegala: People shopping in Muslim-owned shops have rotten eggs thrown at them.

31 March – Gampaha: A group of Muslim men taking part in religious activities are attacked. The attacker is a Sinhalese.

1 April – Nationwide: Minister Champika Ranawake strictly opposes the halal mechanism, which was proposed by the Muslim ministers.

2 April – Batticaloa: Some notices intending to persuade Tamil people to participate in Hartal against Muslims are distributed in the Batticaloa District via post.

3 April – Anuradhapura: A Muslim Sunday school in Dickson Road, Malwatu Oya, Anuradhapura is ordered by the BBS be removed immediately.

4 April – Nationwide: The BBS states that Muslim ministers are trying to encroach on lands in the Northern Province, which is contributing to the delay of resettlement of Tamil people.

5 April – Batticaloa: JHU Media Spokesperson Nishantha Warnasinghe issues a notice blaming Muslim saboteurs for the sudden fire which had broken out at the Muhudu Maha Viharaya in Pottuvil.

7 April – Colombo: Group of Sinhala people demand that mosque is closed in Colombo, saying that failure to do so would result in their return with a Buddhist to demolish the place.

7 April – Nationwide: Negombo Municipal Council ruling party member, Dayal Nilanga, makes a racist speech during a council session claiming that ‘70% of Sinhala Buddhist and Sinhala Christians are living in Sri Lanka. Muslims came as traders’ causing the Muslim members of the council to oppose his speech.

10 April – Nationwide: Former Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka, congratulates BBS for its successful campaign to withdraw halal certification.

12 April – JHU Leader Omalpe Sobhitha Thera addresses a public gathering, speaking against Islam and its customs.

18 April – President of BBS Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi postulates that Islamic terrorist groups are active in Sri Lanka and are facilitated by Jamiyathul Ulama.

8 May – Nationwide: JHU Leader Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera admits that they are racists and religious fanatics, but that they are not the authors of racism and religious fanaticism in Sri Lanka.

14 May – Colombo: Meethota-Kolonnawa Mosque is stoned by some drunkards.

24 May – Colombo: The monks of Sinhala Ravaya and a gang of goons entered the Colpetty Municipal People’s Market and attacked the meat stalls.

9 June – Nationwide: The BBS launches an online petition calling for the ban on the face veil.

11 June – Batticaloa: BBS General Secretary vows to take revenge from MP Harees for requesting the President’s intervention in shifting the venue of their first meeting in the East from Kalmunai to Batticaloa.

18 June – Nationwide: BBS General Secretary claims, ‘Sri Lanka belongs to Buddhists. Other religious people should not have any rights.’

19 June – Hambantota: During Sinhala Ravaya’s anti-cattle slaughter march, the group sets a Muslim beef stall ablaze in full view of the police, who make no arrests.

28 June – Nationwide: BBS General Secretary issues a public warning that minorities will be attacked within the next month, stating that the government has to take action against minority organizations before the July full moon day.

1 July – Batticaloa: Unidentified people break into the Masjuthul An-Noor Mosque in Batticaloa.

4 July – Trincomalee: Tamil parents and children of Nilaveli Tamil Vidyalam protest against Muslim children wearing the hijab.

9 July – Colombo: Ravana Balaya holds a protest outside the Department of Buddhist Affairs demanding the removal of a mosque in Grandpass.

11 July – Badulla: A mob of masked men stone the Mahiyangana Mosque, assaults the mosque trustee.

16 July – Colombo: Seven Buddhist monks and five civilians set fire to a lorry belonging to a Muslim, parked near the Baseline Road.

17 July – Colombo: Sinhala Ravaya monks storm a temporarily constructed mosque in Grandpass, laying claim that the building was an illegal construction.

19 July – Badulla: Mahiyangana mosque closes down for the first time in 40 years. Uva Province Minister Anura Vithanagamage allegedly threatened the trustee of the mosque against holding Jummah prayers.

21 July – Trincomalee: Armed forces try to stop renovation of Muhaideen Jumma Mosque in Thoppur. They demand to see the approval for the mosque.

25 July – Matale: UDA that comes under the Ministry of Defence, requests through letters to remove the buildings surrounding the Dambulla Mosque.

3 August – Colombo: A group of men led by the Chief Prelate of the Bellanwila Rajamaha Vihara enter the Masjidul Hiba Mosque, while devotees are about to break their fast, and threaten them to close down the mosque immediately.

10 August – Colombo: A Buddhist mob attacks the mosque in Grandpass, leaving at least five persons injured. Buddhists and Muslims clash after the attack and police impose a curfew in the area. Several houses also vandalized.

11 August – Kalutara: A beef stall in Panadura is set on fire.

12 August – Colombo: The New Grandpass Mosque is closed after the attacks.

22 August – Trincomalee: 13 shops owned by Muslims were damaged by an unidentified group in Muttur.

23 August – Kegalle: The Sihala Ravaya stops President’s convoy, which was returning to Colombo from Mawanella and complains that a millionaire Muslim businessman has brought over the sacred places in Devanagala and fenced off the land.

28 November – Kegalle: Eight monks representing the Sihala Ravaya commence fast-unto-death protest in Mawanella claiming to save the Buddhist land.

8 December – Colombo: The face veil worn by female Muslim students was banned within the Moratuwa University.

13 December – Colombo: Police officers ordered the Kadawata Mosque Trustees to close down.

29 December – Batticaloa: A Muslim shrine in Pottuvil belonging to the Sufi Sect was attacked by a fundamentalist Islamic group.

In a serious turn of events, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by Minister Rauff Hakeem has threatened to quit the government if the UPFA-led government fails to honour the agreement which was reached with the SLMC over consolidating power in the Eastern Provincial Council. Accordingly, the SLMC has decided that if the government fails to award the Chief Ministerial portfolio of the Eastern Provincial Council to the Congress by August as stipulated earlier, it would depose the government from power in the Eastern Provincial Council.

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