Easter Sunday blasts: Sri Lanka’s Muslim community fears backlash

The Hindu | 4/24/2019 | Staff
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The Easter day attacks in Sri Lanka and the subsequent naming of a local Islamist radical organisation as the perpetrator have left the island’s Muslim community in fear and panic.

Amid reports of a few stray incidents of attacks on Muslim-owned property in the last two days, the sudden, heightened scrutiny of localities where Muslim families reside have sparked serious concerns, according to leaders and members of the community.

Muslim - Community - Blasts - Sri - Lanka

“The Muslim community is equally outraged [by the blasts],” said Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader and Cabinet Minister Rauff Hakeem. In his view, the “warped ideology” of the radical group cannot get “even an iota of support” from within the community.

Muslims, and in fewer instances Christians, have been at the “receiving end” of violence in Sri Lanka in the last few years, he said, pointing to the spate of targeted, violent attacks unleashed by hard-line Sinhala Buddhist groups.

Muslim - Community - Moderation - Time - Introspection

“But the [Muslim] community has always believed in moderation,” he said, at the same time calling for introspection within the community on new cultural practices and foreign ideas.

But the space for conversations within the community may now shrink, fears Mareena Thaha Reffai, founder-president of Al Muslim Aath, a 28-year-old organisation of Muslim Women. “Despite holding diverse views, we were trying to talk about reforming our personal laws, reflect on our changing practices. It may become harder to have those discussions because something so big has hit us,” she said.

Community - Leaders - Jihadist - Killings - Image

Community leaders also fear that the recent jihadist killings might taint the overall image of Sri Lankan Muslims. “Even when we were targeted by the BBS (hard-line Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena) we did not retaliate even once,” Ms. Reffai said.

Constituting about 10% of the island’s population, Muslims in Sri Lanka are widely perceived to be an enterprising community, successful in trade and as professionals. Though Tamil-speaking, they...
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