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  • Lawyer says teachers were forced to implicate Hejaaz
    Two Fundamental Rights petitions filed on behalf of two teachers of the Al- Zuhriya Arabic College said that two teachers were forced by the Criminal Investigations Department to implicate Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

    The two petitions were filed by lawyer Erik Balasooriya was supported before the Supreme Court yesterday.

    M.A. Sumanthiran PC told the court that the two teachers had told their lawyer Balasooriya during a consultation held in the presence of two CID officers who had an audio recording device, that the officers had promised “leniency” if they implicate Hizbullah.

    “They were forced to implicate...
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    June 1, 2021 මදුරංකුලියේ මද්‍රසා පාසලක ගුරුවරුන් දෙදෙනකු බව කියමින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් දෙදෙනා මූලික අයිතිවාසිකම් පෙත්සම් දෙකක් ගොනු කර ඇති බවත්, නීතීඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතාට එරෙහිව සාක්කි ලබා දෙන ලෙසට විමර්ශන නිලධාරීන් ඔවුන්ට...
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  • Detained Maulavis claim under pressure to frame Hejaaz
    Two Maulavis who have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), have informed court through their lawyer that they are under pressure to frame human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah. Attorney-at-law Erick Balasooriya had filed a Fundamental Rights petition alleging that the two Maulavis are being coerced to frame Hizbullah. In the Petition, Balasooriya said the Moulavis do not know Hizbullah nor did they conduct any extremist teaching at the Al-Zuhriya madrasa. When the Moulavis were first produced before the Colombo Magistrates court yesterday, Balsooriya informed court that the Moulavis intend making a statements to him. The matter was thereafter transferred to the Fort Magistrates court. Meanwhile, President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran who appeared before the Fort Magistrate on behalf of the two Maulavis today (Tuesday)...
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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
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    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
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  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
    A few years ago, on a Turkish beach exclusively for women, a bikini-clad woman offered her prayers. The video clip of the woman going through the postures of the Muslim prayer went viral and created a major debate among the Muslims.  Some censured her for not adhering to the dress code for prayers, but others said what mattered was her piety and not the dress.
    Following the release of the Easter Sunday terror attack commission report, Sri Lanka is mulling whether to ban burqa – the Muslim dress that covers a female body from head to toe – and niqab, which only shows the eyes of the wearer, but the issue needs to be looked at from human rights, security and spiritual angles to come to a right decision.
    If at the one end of the spectrum is public nudity, burqa will...
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  • South African Muslim bodies seek intervention over burqa ban in Sri Lanka Foreign Minister of South Africa urged to intervene
    South African Muslim organisations have called on the country’s foreign minister to intervene in the proposed Sri Lankan ban on the burqa and closure of hundreds of Islamic schools. This followed the announcement by Sri Lanka''s minister for public security, Sarath Weerasekera, during the weekend that his country would ban the traditional full-face covering worn by some Muslim women because it posed a threat to national security. This was quickly followed by a statement from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, which said a decision would only be taken on the proposal after consultations and further discussion. The United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) has now asked South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor to intervene in the matter. UUCSA had earlier also called for such intervention when...
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  • Banning Burqas and Madrasas illegal: Fmr MP
    Former MP M.M .Zuhair said yesterday it would be unlawful to ban Burqas and Madrasas. Issuing a statement, he said some observations and recommendations of the Commission on Easter Sunday attacks are invasive of the absolute protection given to every person under Article 10 of the Sri Lanka Constitution. He said the Commission’s report though good in parts, can be seen as an attempted assault on Islam for the heinous crimes of a dozen suicide bombers. The right to the freedom stated in Article 10 is ‘assured to all religions’ under Article 9. No one, not even Presidential Commissions can invite or promote the State or any limb of the Executive or Judiciary to violate the freedom guaranteed under Article 10.This protection is guaranteed notwithstanding any national security concerns, as the law stands today. In this constitutionally...
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    The Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak today said the likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as an injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. In a tweet, the Ambassador said that at today’s economically difficult time due to COVID-19 pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at the international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country. Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera said today that in addition to banning the burqa, the cabinet proposal would also include banning the niqab which covers the face of the wearer except the eyes. The...
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  • Eight EU HR Ambassadors raise concern over Hejaaz Hizbullah
    In a statement issued today, Eight Human Rights  Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden called on the Sri Lankan government to " respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah". The statement issued by the Ambassadors of the United Kingsdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands said that after ten months of Detention, Hejaaz Hizbullah was being accused of speech related offences. Prominent Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department on the 14th of April 2020. He was thereafter accused in the media of various activities related to terrorism. He was thereafter produced on the 18th of February 2021 where the Attorney General informed court that the entire case against Hizbullah was to be based on purported statements made by children. Hizbullah...
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Fear, shock among Sri Lankan Muslims in aftermath of Buddhist mob violence

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By Iqbal Athas and Tim Hume, CNN

June 20, 2014 -- Updated 0337 GMT (1137 HKT)

Aluthgama, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- In the areas surrounding the southwest Sri Lankan town of Aluthgama, an idyllic coastal settlement popular with tourists, Muslims and Buddhists have lived side by side peacefully for generations.

But a wave of deadly communal violence that followed a rally Sunday by hardline Buddhist nationalist monks has changed that.

"The house I owned was burnt down. My family has nowhere to go," Muhsin Shihab, a father of eight children, told CNN Tuesday.

His family, which has been sheltering at a local mosque since being displaced by the rioting, hadn't eaten for a day and a half, he said.

The rally, organized by the far-right Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force), was called after an alleged altercation in the area between a group of young Muslims and a Buddhist monk and his driver on an important Buddhist religious holiday days earlier.

Addressing the crowd of thousands Sunday, the BBS's leader, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, gave an inflammatory speech.

Video footage from the event shows the orange-robed monk using derogatory terms for Muslims and, to approving roars from the crowd, vowing that if any Muslim laid a hand on a member of the Sinhalese majority -- let alone a monk -- that would "be the end" of them.

After the rally, Buddhist mobs marched through Muslim neighborhoods, torching and destroying dozens of homes and shops, witnesses told CNN.

Following consecutive nights of violence, in which local medical staff say at least four people were killed and sixteen seriously injured, those made homeless by the rioting were sheltering in the town's main mosque Tuesday, shell-shocked and fearful of what may come next.

'A nightmare'

Among them was Fasniya Fairooz, an 80-year-old grandmother of three, who was at home when the mob stormed into her house in Seenawatte, a local village comprised of Sinhalese and Muslims.

"We pleaded with the attackers not to harm us. They used abusive language," she said. "They took the Holy Quran and burnt it outside... Then they looted the house."

I have lost all my belongings. My house was burnt down. All I own today are the clothes my children wear
Ahmed Rahamatulla, made homesless by the riots

Her family had nowhere to go, she said.

Ahmed Rahamatulla, a father of four from Seenawatte, was also made homeless by the riots.

"I have lost all my belongings. My house was burnt down. All I own today are the clothes my children wear," he said.

"I don't know where to go from here. My children are all frightened and in a state of shock."

The surrounding area is in lockdown in the aftermath of the rioting, the country's worst communal violence in years. Soldiers on armored troop carriers watch over once bustling streets; shutters are drawn on the charred remains of arson-hit stores.

In a nearby house, U.S. citizen Rameeza Nizar, 47, found herself unexpectedly stranded in her bedridden mother's home during a visit from Washington D.C. for a family event.

"Every night has been a nightmare," she told CNN. "We have not slept for fear there would be attacks. We kept our lights switched off but remained together inside the house."

'Cycle of fear'

Ayoob Saja, a doctor at a local hospital and a Muslim, said his community was in a "cycle of fear" as a result of the violence, in which the vast majority of those treated for injuries were Muslims.

Every night has been a nightmare. We have not slept for fear there would be attacks
Rameeza Nizar

He said three of the dead were Muslims, two of whom were fatally shot during the rampage on Sunday, and another who died of his injuries Tuesday.

The fourth fatality was a Tamil who worked as a watchman on a Muslim-owned farm in the nearby town of Welipenna, and was attacked during continued violence on Monday night.

Sixteen people had been seriously injured, he said, including a young man whose leg was amputated Wednesday, while hundreds of others sustained lesser injuries. More than 80 homes were also destroyed in the rioting, he said.

While a heavy military presence has been brought in to enforce a curfew and prevent further violence, it has given little comfort to the community, he said.

"The armed forces are supporting the majority," he said, referring to the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese who account for about three-quarters of Sri Lanka's population. About 10% of the country is Muslim, according to the 2011 census.

"They are guarding the majority people who attack our people."

The group blamed for inciting the violence, the Bodu Bala Sena, has denied any responsibility.

Contacted by CNN, Gnanasara said he was unavailable to comment. But Dilantha Vithanage, the BBS's chief executive, told CNN "we categorically deny any involvement by our membership in reported attacks."

He said the earlier assault on the monk on a Buddhist holy day had upset people in the Sinhalese community.

Referring to Gnanasara's speech, he said: "It is true our priest spoke in strong words. He blessed the people after chanting verses. He preached to them to conduct themselves peacefully."

It is true our priest spoke in strong words... He preached to them to conduct themselves peacefully
Dilantha Vithanage, Bodu Bala Sena chief executive

The allegations against BBS, he said, were "an attempt to bring disrespect to Buddhist clergy and Buddhism."

Tacit political approval?

Buddhist radicalism has been on the rise in Sri Lanka, much as in Myanmar, where a monk-led Buddhist nationalist movement has been blamed for drumming up deadly mob violence against minority Muslim groups.

Many in Sri Lanka, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa's own political allies within government, are critical of the authorities for allowing the violence to occur.

Mangala Samaraweera, an opposition lawmaker for the southern Matara District, told CNN that he believed the Bodu Bala Sena has the tacit support of the Rajapaksa government, a view shared by many Sri Lankans. Rajapaksa has publicly denied any link.

The Bodu Bala Sena has largely been able to operate with impunity, with previous attacks attributed to the organization going unpunished.

Rauff Hakeem, Sri Lanka's Minister of Justice and the leader the country's largest Muslim political party, said in parliament that police had been asked to stop the rally but had failed to heed the request.

He also blamed BBS for inciting the "orgy of attacks against Muslims," and told CNN he was weighing his party's future in the government -- made up of an alliance of parties -- pending the official response to the violence.

The Bodu Bala Sena roused religious sentiments. Mobs went on the attack. The police looked the other way
Mohamed Aslam, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress lawmaker

Mohamed Aslam, the local lawmaker for Hakeem's Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, also blamed police for allowing the rally to take place, and said he had nearly been shot in the aftermath.

"Muslims and Sinhalese in this area have been leading peaceful lives helping each other. This is the first time police have allowed such a meeting, where mobs were incited, to take place," he told CNN.

"The meeting on Sunday by the Bodu Bala Sena roused religious sentiments. Mobs went on the attack. The police looked the other way."

Police: We took precautions

But police Senior Superintendent Roshan Silva, in charge of the district where the violence took place, denied any police responsibility for the violence. "We took all precautions. The allegation that we were inactive is false. We had deployed police all around."

Police said 47 arrests have been made over the violence, while probes by the criminal investigation department and Colombo crimes division look into larger questions around criminal culpability for allowing the rally to proceed.

A group of more than 300 concerned Sri Lankans, including academics, lawyers and journalists, signed an open letter condemning the BBS's "hate speech," saying they believed the violence was directly linked to the inflammatory comments by Gnanasara.

"We therefore call upon the authorities to take immediate steps to arrest and charge him for the deaths and destruction in the area," read the letter.

Returning to the country after a G77 meeting of developing nations in Bolivia, Rajapaksa visited an affected Muslim town and vowed that an "impartial inquiry would be held and those responsible punished." He made no reference to the BBS.

Many Muslim businesses in Sri Lanka's capital were shut Thursday in protest at the violence.

3 Muslims killed in Buddhist mob attacks in Sri Lanka

Iqbal Athas reported from Aluthgama and Colombo. Tim Hume reported and wrote from Hong Kong.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/19/world/asia/sri-lanka-muslim-aluthgama/index.html?hpt=hp_c4

 

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