CAIRO - Angered by a recent decision by the Sri Lankan government to relocate a Muslim mosque, the religious minority called for a strike on Friday, April 27, uniting to preserve their depleting rights in the Buddhist-majority country.
Muslims were deeply worried over the recent incident took place in Dambulla in which a gang stormed the Jumma Mosque of Dambulla and damaged the place on 20 April, Friday, Sheikh M. M. A. Mubarak, general secretary, All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama, told The Hindu.
Muslims along with peace loving citizens of Sri Lanka are fretful if this incident would negatively impact the reconciliation that has started to sprout among communities since recently.
Many public services have shut down, but Muslim-led demonstrations have somehow been halted by the military.
On Thursday, Muslims across the country have observed a black day' as All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama called for fasting the day in a protest against the government.
The strike comes after days of tension which started last Friday when Buddhist monks protested against the Jumma Mosque of Dambulla, disrupting the weekly Muslim prayers.
They also threatened to demolish the mosque next week if the Muslim worship place was not removed.
Muslims living in the area said that the mosque has existed since 1962 and regular prayers have been conducted for the past three decades.
Buddhist monks, however, said the government mistakenly had allowed the mosque to be expanded recently, despite a 1982 state regulation declaring the area sacred for Buddhism.
Seeking to pacify Buddhist tensions, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister has ordered the disputed mosque moved to a suitable location as soon as possible.
The Sri Lankan official claimed that the mosque removal came after discussion with several Muslim ministers.
But Muslim politicians have denied approving the government's decision to remove the mosque.
Sheikh Mubarak, general secretary of All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama, warned against violence, adding that Muslims value the peace-loving Buddhist majority who respect the Muslim rights.
We should not forget the fact that majority of the Buddhist people are peace loving, rational and fair minded people and that they do not approve such acts, he said.
Decrying the government's decision as inciting anti-Muslim discriminations, 219 individuals, non-governmental Organizations, and social activist signed an appeal, urging the government to fight intolerance.
We strongly urge the state to take measures to curb the growing trend of intolerance and to do its utmost to make minorities feel in every way people of this country, said the appeal quoted by The Hindu.
In the post war context this is of the utmost importance for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.
We also appeal to religious and community leaders to initiate dialogue at all possible levels so that minority communities feel secure. We pledge our support for a pluralist Sri Lankan society, the appeal said.
Sri Lankan Muslims, known as Moors, are the third largest ethnic group in the country after the Sinhalese, who make up 70 percent of the populace, and Tamils, who account for 12.5 percent.
Analysts say successive governments have been under pressure to give in to the Buddhist majority whenever there is an ethnic clash.
During the country's long civil war, the Muslim community was often caught between the two warring parties and it has a reputation for moderation.
Muslims live scattered throughout the island from Galle in the south to the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula in the north.
Generally they are involved in commerce, from running local dry goods stores to dominating the wealthy gem business associated with Ratnapura [Jewel City] and much of the capital's import-export business.
On the west coast, Muslims are primarily in business and trade, while on the east coast they are agriculturists, fishers and traders.