Sri Lanka allows Colombo mosque expansion despite Buddhist hardliners’ objections

August 13, 2013

(Sri Lankan Muslims shout slogans and carry placards during a protest against the government in Colombo April 27, 2012. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)

Sri Lanka’s government said on Tuesday it would give the go-ahead to plans to develop a mosque in central Colombo, despite objections from Buddhist hardliners who have targeted members of the minority Muslim community in a spate of recent attacks.

Requests to expand the mosque had been repeatedly rejected, Muslim clerics said, because the building work would mean having to cut down parts of a large bo-tree, considered sacred by Buddhists.

A three-storey mosque was built in its place around a month ago, but it was attacked late on Saturday, triggering clashes between Muslims and Sinhala Buddhists and a two-day curfew in the neighborhood in the center of the capital.

There has been increasing violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka since last year, mirroring events in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which has also seen a surge of attacks by members of the majority community against Muslims.

In Myanmar, hardline Buddhist monks have been at the forefront of campaigns against Muslims.

In Sri Lanka, a group known as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or the “Buddhist power force”, has been trying to win over Buddhists to their own campaign. But the BBS has denied any involvement in the latest mosque attack.

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