The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy

Anti-Muslim attacks stoke tensions and incite fear amongst mourning Sri Lankans

On 12 May, anti-Muslim violence was allegedly sparked over a Facebook post by a Muslim trader in coastal Chilaw town located 80 km away from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Within hours, mobs began attacking mainly Muslim-owned buildings and houses in other cities in the North Western province. By 13 May, around 500 houses, shops, mosques, and other religious centers were damaged, one person was killed, and ten others were seriously injured. The authorities imposed a curfew in the entire country until the morning of 14 May, amid fears of the attacks spreading.

The authorities also temporarily blocked a number of social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, to control the situation.

This comes in the wake of the 21 April 2019 bomb attacks on churches and hotels during Easter celebrations, which killed 258 people and rattled the country. As details of the Easter events emerged, locally based radical Islamic groups were identified as the attackers and many of the perpetrators died in suicide bombings. Many feared that the local Muslim community would be targeted as a scapegoat for the terrorist acts, against the backdrop of century-long violence by the Sinhala majority against minority Tamils, Muslims, and Christians.

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Written by Rezwan
Global Voices


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