Sri Lanka Manhunt for Anti-Muslim Provocateur

Sri Lanka Manhunt for Anti-Muslim ProvocateurSri Lanka Manhunt for Anti-Muslim Provocateur

A manhunt is on in Sri Lanka for a hard-line Buddhist leader after a series of attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses that authorities accuse him of encouraging.

President Maithripala Siresena had vowed to investigate anti-Muslim hate crimes after assuming power in 2015, but attacks have escalated over the past two weeks.

Another Muslim shop in the town of Kahawatte was reportedly burned to the ground this week by unidentified attackers, Aljazeera reported.

Bodu Bala Sena General-Secretary Galagoda Atte Gnanasara has encouraged his Buddhist supporters to lead another campaign against Muslims following the deadly Aluthgama riots in June 2014, which attempted to create disunity between Buddhists and Muslims.

Less than 10% of Sri Lanka’s population of 20 million are Muslim. A majority are Sinhalese Buddhist, while most Tamils are Hindu.

Political analyst Amjad Mohamed Saleem told Aljazeera it was worrisome that violent Buddhist nationalism had reemerged.

“If the government doesn’t address this issue, it will spill over. We all know the ramifications of these types of tensions that are unchecked. The government has to respond with rule of law and justice if it wants to assure communities it’s not behind it [violence],” said Saleem.

A number of Sri Lankan Muslim ministers urged Siresena to take action this week in critical comments and a meeting was arranged on Thursday to discuss a move to arrest Gnanasara, who is currently in hiding.

Azath Salley, an advisor to the government, told Al Jazeera the Buddhist hardliners were allowed to flourish under the previous administration.

“The BBS had been very active in the last regime of Mahinda Rajapakse and have done damage to unity and created many problems for Muslims in the country. With the new President Siresena, we hoped that improvements would be made to facilitate peace within the country,” he said.

“We had to bring in pressure to the government in order to take this case up against the BBS and I am glad that finally action is being taken with special teams being deployed to find Gnanasera.”  

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