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FeaturesNewsSri Lanka to demolish mosque after monks’ protest

Sri Lanka to demolish mosque after monks’ protest

Sri Lankan officials have decided to demolish a mosque and a Hindu temple under pressure from Buddhist monks who demanded their removal from a Buddhist sacred area.

Ruling party lawmaker Lakshman Perera said Monday that the places of worship and other buildings will be relocated to sites outside the designated sacred zone within six months.

Thousands of Buddhist monks and lay supporters stormed the mosque in the central Sri Lankan town of Dambulla on Friday, saying it was constructed illegally. They forced their way into the building and damaged some furniture, dispersing only after officials promised a solution on Monday.

Mohamed Saleemdeen, a board member of the mosque, denied it was an illegal building and said it had been there long before the area was declared a sacred zone about 20 years ago.

He said his father and grandfather were officials at the mosque.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, an umbrella group of Muslim organizations, said the mosque was duly registered.

“It is regrettable that a group of radical elements of the Buddhist community against the will of the majority has been consistently undermining the coexistence of the different ethnic communities in Sri Lanka,” it said in a statement Monday.

“We call upon the religious, political and civil leadership of the Buddhist community to intervene immediately and re-establish the cordial relationship which existed between the Buddhists and Muslims prior to this unfortunate incident.”

Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s state religion and monks are powerful in political and social affairs.

“The Muslims (the Moors, as they are called in Sri Lanka) have never been a party to the conflict in the civil war. They haven’t got a territory of their own for compact residence, so there are no separatist ideas among them”. Moreover, the Moors, who had lived in the North, in the province of Jaffna inhabited by the Tamils, had themselves become the victims of the separatists: in the 1990-ies the “Tigers” had expelled all of the Moors from the territory under their control, said Boris Volkhonsky.

Today the events of the civil war period attract attention of the whole world. From time to time the Sri Lankan government and personally President Makhinda Radjapaksa are charged with abuse of power and large-scale violations of human rights. Sometimes these charges are put forward not only for the sake of restoration of justice, but for the sake of exerting political pressure on Sri Lanka. But, one way or another, the government is forced to take a defensive position. Against this background, it is very doubtful that the new axis of inter-confessional confrontation will facilitate thereturn of inter-communal peace and tranquility to Sri Lanka.
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