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Attacks on Srilanka Muslims
By Zafarul-Islam Khan

Srilankan Muslims, accounting for about ten percent of the country’s population, have never had it easy, sandwiched as they are between two bigoted communities, the Tamils in the north and the Sinhalas in the rest of the country. Though mostly belonging to the Tamil linguistic group, they refused to support the (Hindu) Tamil secessionist movement and stuck to the unity of their country. As a consequence 110, 000 were robbed of all their possessions and driven out of their homes from the Jaffna peninsula by the LTTE terrorists at a few hours notice in 1990 and since then live in tents and shanty towns in other parts of the country.

With the surge of chauvinist Sinhala groups, life of Muslims in other parts of Srilanka was at best precarious. The latest spate of violence broke out on 30 April in the central town of Mawanella which lies about 80 kms east of Colombo. Thousands of Sinhala thugs, Chandiyas, with the active support of Rural Industrial Development Minister Mahipala Herath, went on the rampage, burning and looting Muslims shops and properties. Four mosques and 30 shops were ransacked and burnt. When Muslims came out to demonstrate, they were attacked by the police which killed one Muslim protester and injured many. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress sources gave different figures for the actual loss of Muslims in Mawanella: 18 vehicles, 20 houses, 140 shops, two garment factories and a rubber factory were gutted by the Sinhala thugs who killed two Muslims during curfew.

On 4 May Muslims demonstrated in the Maradana, Panchikawatta, Maaligawatte and Hulftsdrop areas of Colombo demanding for protection to Muslim lives and properties. The police once again came into action and fired upon the protesters injuring 15 of them. Riots broke out in various parts of the Srilankan capital and a 12-hour curfew had to be clamped.

Two days later, on 6 May anti-Muslim violence erupted in Mutur town in the eastern district of Trincomalee. Twelve Muslim shops were gutted in the main street at stone-throwing distance from the town police station.

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