COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government has advised the trustees of a 60-year-old Muslim mosque north of the capital to relocate the structure after angry protests by Buddhist monks.
Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne reacted after demonstrations by monks and their followers on Friday triggered tension in the pilgrim town of Dambulla.
“The prime minister as minister of Buddhist and religious affairs advised
the trustees to have their mosque elsewhere,” the premier’s spokesman Sisira
Wijesinghe told AFP.
“They have been offered the choice of three alternate locations. Steps are being taken to immediately shift the mosque.”
The Indian Ocean island nation, emerging from decades of ethnic war, is a majority Buddhist nation where monks are politically influential.
A trustee of the mosque, Mohamed Mustafa, said they had objected to a forced eviction.
“This mosque has been there from the mid-1940s,” Mustafa told AFP. “We don’t mind shifting if it is to make way for town expansion, but we don’t want to be be forced out by those trying to drive a wedge between religions.”
Monks in Dambulla, 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of the capital Colombo,
claimed that the Mosque was an illegal construction on land belonging to the
It is not immediately clear why the monks are pressing a claim more than 60
years after the mosque was built.
A ruling party Muslim lawmaker, A.H.M. Azwar, said talks with Muslim and Buddhist clergy would be held in the coming days to find a solution acceptable to all.
Residents in Dambulla, a pilgrim town which is also a favourite destination
for foreign tourists, said a petrol bomb had been thrown at the mosque on
Friday, but there were no casualties.
Last year, Buddhist activists vandalised a Muslim symbol in the neighbouring district of Anuradhapura and the government promised to restore it.
More than two thirds of the country’s population are Buddhists while 7.5
percent of the 20 million population are Muslims. AFP