Fears rise over rampant hate speech | Sunday Observer

Fears rise over rampant hate speech

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama’s Kandy District branch has urged the Muslim community in the area to ensure that the fast on Sunday (today), ends peacefully. This is in the wake of The Bodu Bala Sena’s (BBS) convention that is expected to be attended by at least 10,000 people, ostensibly ‘to promote unity’ in the Country.

The Muslim traders in the city were also contemplating whether to open for businesses today, as they fear a second ‘Aluthgama incident’ - where a similar rally organized by the BBS led to the death of four people in 2014, as mobs rampaged, targeting the Muslim community.

Today’s convention themed Deyama Ek Rodaka (the country as one) is due to take place at the Bogambara Stadium in Kandy from 2.00pm onwards, following a Bodi Pooja at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Executive Director of the BBS Dilantha Withanage told the Sunday Observer that there was no reason for the widespread panic.

“Our main objective by this convention is to unite the masses. We have also invited people of different faiths including moderate Islamic groups to participate in this event,” Withanage said, while adding that a minimum of 5,000 Buddhist priests and 5,000 lay people are expected to take part in today’s convention.

He also said that the popular Islamic group All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) was attempting to sabotage the event by causing ‘unnecessary panic’. The BBS has written to Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickramaratne to assure that the convention will be held peacefully.

He was referring to the statement issued by the ACJU’s Kandy District branch where they stated that a convention was being organized against the Muslim community and to propagate false allegations.

The ACJU statement adds - “To defeat such evil agenda, only capable force is the almighty “Allah”. It’s in this regard; we urge and request you, to engage religious observances and fasting activities from 04-07 July.”

The association also requested the public to avoid unnecessary visits to Kandy, and only visit the city if essential.

“We issued this statement because we fear racism-driven attacks against Muslims. It was a similar event that led to the riots in Aluthgama,” President of ACJU’s Kandy District branch Ash Shaikh H. Umardeen Rahmani said.

The group has also requested the Senior DIG at Kandy Police to provide security to Mosques and the city. He explained that their intention was not to sabotage the convention but to create an avenue for it to be held peacefully.

“All sorts of people come to these events. Even if it is organized in good intent, there can be a few racists. One thing will lead to another, and we will have yet another Aluthgama incident,” Umardeen said.

In this scenario, Muslim traders are weighing the pros and cons of opening their businesses today. President of Kandy Muslim Traders’ Association Niyaz Muheeth said last night (7) that they have not yet arrived at a decision.

“Sundays are very important days for traders. All the tourists (local or foreign) visit Kandy during the weekend.

The traders are already working under economic pressure, and one day of no sales will affect them badly,” he said.

He further said that even though the BBS undertook to ensure a peaceful convention, past experience has proved otherwise.

“We are scared that something bad would happen,” Muheeth said.

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OIC concerned about anti Muslim rhetoric

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed its concerns this week on anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate speech that is underway in Sri Lanka.

In an official statement the OIC sated it has been monitoring the situation of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka and are concerned about the rise in incidents of intimidation, anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate speech promulgated by certain groups within the country.

It urged Sri Lankan authorities to counter these incidents and ensure the security and safety of the Muslims.

“Muslims represent an important and active community, which contributes positively to the cultural and economic life of Sri Lanka as a whole,” it stated adding,

“The OIC reiterates its firm stance against terrorism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations, noting that terrorism has no religion and that no specific community should be held responsible for the actions of extremists.”

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Reject divisive actions - Jaffna peoples forum for co-existence

Jaffna People’s Forum for Coexistence (JPFC) urged the public to dwell into the country’s past and ‘reject the divisive actions and politics’ that are on the rise.

Reflecting on the Bodu Bala Sena’s scheduled convention and its probable negative impacts on the Muslim community the JPFC issued the following statement.

“We have condemned the targeting of the Muslim community after the Easter Sunday attacks and taken forward initiatives for coexistence. In this context, the mobilisation in Kandy to be organised on 7th July 2019 has created widespread fear amongst the Muslim community. The circulation of hateful discourses and riots against the Muslims in recent times have occurred in the backdrop of such regressive mobilisations.

“As people of different ethnicities and faiths living in Jaffna, and having witnessed the hardships faced by Muslims who were forcefully evicted in 1990, we are working to ensure the resettlement of the Jaffna Muslims after the war and build a space for coexistence.

“There is tremendous fear that mass gatherings inciting ethnic and religious divisions can once again devastate a particular community. Therefore, we must recognise the dangers inherent in such mobilisations. We call upon all people living in the country to recognise the tragic history of the country, and reject the divisive actions and politics which is on the rise.

The Government of Sri Lanka has an important duty at this time. Majoritarian activities must be controlled and the rights of all people must be equally safeguarded. We all have the democratic responsibility to extend our solidarity towards the Muslim community, work towards relieving their fear and protect their rights.”

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