Muslims in Sri Lanka now live in fear over the possibility of fresh attacks following remarks by a top Buddhist monk that Muslims, the religious minority in the country, should be stoned.
The remarks by Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero are likely to fuel communal tensions in the country. Activists, politicians, and the Muslim minority are concerned over the polarized state, just weeks after Muslims’ homes and businesses were attacked by Buddhists mobs.
The attacks occurred as a response to the Easter Sunday bombings that saw more than 250 people killed. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted churches and hotels. Authorities in Sri Lanka suspect that two small Muslim groups are responsible.
For a country that is still healing, Gnanarathana’s accusations continue to strain religious tension. He claims that over 4,000 Buddhist women were secretly sterilized by a rogue Muslim doctor within the central Kurunegala district. He also claims that Muslim-owned eating places gave meals that were laced with sterilization pills to their Buddhist clients.
Gnanarathana is the head of the oldest and most important Buddhist chapter in Sri Lanka – the Asigiriya Chapter. He is now calling for the boycotting of all Muslim-owned eating places. In a broadcast on national TV, the monk also stated that, “some feminine devotees mentioned (people like the doctor) need to be stoned to loss of life. I don’t say that. However, that is what needs to be executed.”
In Sri Lanka’s population of more than 21 million people, 10 per cent are Muslims. Buddhists make up the majority at 70 per cent of the population.
The minority group of Muslims now live in fear that fresh assaults will erupt. Activists have termed the remarks as “hate speech” and are calling on President Maithripala Sirisena to take action.
Gnanarathana’s speech has shocked many, especially because he is a chief prelate of a top Buddhist faction. It is unexpected, as such extremist comments are normally relayed by organizations such as the radical nationalist and Buddhist organization, Bodu Bala Sena. Muslims are terrified that extra assaults on themselves and their businesses are imminent.
Gnanarathana’s remarks are just one part of “normalizing” the hate against Muslims. Failure of the president and the prime minister to condemn the sentiments only aggravates the situation.
It is unfair that Muslim minorities are being persecuted for the actions of a few extremists. The discrimination is very overt and is estimated to only get worse in the coming weeks.