Did Sri Lanka President Order a Shutdown of Mosques and Madrasas?
In the aftermath of the bomb attacks that ripped through Sri Lanka over the weekend, a post claiming that the country’s president has ordered all mosques and madrasas to be shut down is currently going viral on social media.
The message, written in Hindi, claims:
"श्रीलंका में कोई मस्जिद मदरसा नहीं चलेगा - राष्ट्रपति श्रीलंका
ये हुई बात"
(Translated: No mosques or madrasas will be open in Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan President)
This claim is doing the rounds after the Sri Lankan authorities claimed that local Islamic outfit National Thowheed Jamath was suspected to be behind the attack.
TRUE OR FALSE?
A search on the internet for the keywords "Sri Lanka mosques closed" did not throw up any results from recent times, confirming that Sri Lankan President Maithiripala Sirisena did not take such a step.
The Quint reached out to Bandula Jayasekara, a former diplomat who is currently a TV host with News First in Sri Lanka, to confirm if Sirisena did announce any such directive.
"These posts are mischievous and utterly false. We are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society," he said.
Thus, these posts are malicious in nature and have no truth to them. However, it must be noted that the Sri Lankan defence minister has proposed banning the National Thowheed Jamath following the attacks.
HAS SRI LANKA CLOSED DOWN MOSQUES IN THE PAST?
While a cursory search on the internet did not show any recent results, a BBC report from 2013 indicated that a mosque did close down in the island nation following communal riots between the Buddhist hardliners and the Muslims.
According to the report, a mosque in Colombo had to be closed down after it was attacked by Buddhist-led crowds leading to a clash between the two communities.
Similarly, in 2012, then Prime Minister DM Jayaratne reportedly ordered the relocation of a mosque in the country's Dambulla town, stating that it was in an area that was "sacred to Buddhists". This too, came after threats from the Buddhist groups to demolish the mosque if the authorities did not act fast, reported the BBC.
HISTORY OF MUSLIM-BUDDHIST TENSIONS IN SRI LANKA
Following the end of the civil war in 2009, tensions between the Muslim community and the majority Buddhist Sinhalese have been simmering in the country, with periodic riots breaking out over the past decade.
However, things took a turn for the worse in 2014, when Buddhist mobs stormed a mosque, armed with gas bombs. The ensuing riots killed four people and left at least 80 injured, according to reports.
According to a Business Standard report, Sirisena, in 2015, promised to take action regarding the Anti-Muslim riots, but nothing substantial has been achieved so far.