Peaceful protest against anti-Muslim campaign next week
- MRO calls on Muslim enterprises and offices to shut down next Monday
- Says BBS hid its anti-Muslim face behind Halal controversy
- Urges time of fasting and prayer for peace between communities
- Criticises Govt. silence in the face of anti-Muslim sentiment spreading in SL
In the first major reaction to recent events, an organisation aiming to protect Muslim rights yesterday announced a peaceful protest against anti-Muslim sentiment spreading across the island and perpetuated by Sinhala hard-line groups, next Monday.
The protest will shut down parts of Colombo’s major trading hub in Pettah, organisers said.
The Muslim Rights Organisation (MRO) said the protest was being organised islandwide, with Muslim enterprises and trading centres likely to heed the call on 25 March.
Addressing a press briefing in Colombo yesterday, MRO Secretary Abdul Niyaz said that the organisation was calling on Muslims to engage in a peaceful demonstration against growing anti-Muslim campaigns in the country, spearheaded by groups like the Bodu Bala Sena. He said Government officials were entertaining such elements on common platforms against the wishes of a majority of peace-loving people in the country.
The Secretary of MRO added that they were increasingly concerned about such groups being permitted to take the law into their own hands.
Niyaz said the MRO had notified members of the Muslim community across the country using leaflets and other propaganda material. “By 2 p.m. on Friday, Muslims all over the island will be aware of the call for a peaceful protest,” Niyaz said, indicating that the announcements would be made in mosques during Friday prayers as well.
“We have asked the Muslim community to be completely non-violent during the protest. The MRO asks members of the Muslim community to fast and pray for peace between communities during this time,” he said.
Monday’s protest calls for an end to harassment of Muslims and for persons aiming to shatter the peace between communities to be brought before the law. The MRO also wants the Government to intervene to restore law and order.
Also addressing the briefing, UNP Western Provincial Councillor and outspoken politico Mujibur Rahman charged that the Halal issue was a creation aimed at whipping up the emotions of the Sinhalese community.
“It is clear by the fact that after the Halal controversy is over, the Bodu Bala Sena continues to attack Muslim women’s clothing, our culture and our places of worship, that this was never really about Halal at all,” Rahman told journalists.
He said that the Bodu Bala Sena group opposed Halal because they were essentially anti-Muslim.
“The Bodu Bala Sena works closely with the President. They consistently claim at their rallies that this President should rule for another 20 years. The ACJU works closely with the President and the Government. It is difficult to understand why the President failed to bring these two groups to the table for discussions to resolve this issue before it spiralled into such a social crisis,” Rahman charged.
He said it was impossible to stay silent any longer, because the Government was refusing to take action on the issue. “This campaign against Muslims is pushing Sri Lanka towards another communal conflict,” he warned.