Sri Lanka orders mosque move after Buddhist protest

COLOMBO Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:15pm EDT

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COLOMBO (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan government ordered a mosque relocated on Sunday after Buddhist monks said the 50-year-old structure had been built illegally in an area sacred to Buddhists and threatened to demolish it.

The monks in the island nation's central town of Dambulla protested against the mosque on Friday, stopping the Islamic prayers, and threatened violence if it was not removed.

They also have asked that a Hindu temple in the area be removed.

"Following a discussion with the relevant parties, the Prime Minister has ordered the disputed mosque moved to a suitable location as soon as possible," Sisira Wijesinghe, media secretary to Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, told Reuters.

He said several Muslim ministers took part in the discussion, a claim rejected by Muslim political leaders.

"It is a false statement and there was no discussion on this and we don't agree with the mosque relocation," A.H.M. Fowzie, a senior Muslim cabinet minister, told Reuters.

Muslims living in the area told Reuters 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.

Constitutionally, Buddhism is the main religion in Sri Lanka, ahead of Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, and the Buddhists make up around 70 percent of the population.

Analysts say successive governments have been under pressure to give in to the majority whenever there is an ethnic clash.

Sri Lanka saw a 25-year civil war between the government's military and Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought for a separate state for the Tamil minority, claiming their rights were discriminated against by successive Sinhala-majority governments.

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (1)
Whatever111 wrote:
It seems like there are more mosques in Sri Lanka than people to attend them. Sri Lanka should 1st preserve historical areas and prohibit any new construction in and around them. Secondly they should let people build new sites of worship based on the number of people in the area attending it and proximity to the next closest place of worship regardless of which religion it is.

Unfortunately if a muslim mosque happens to open near your house, it it becomes a hassel to secular people in the surrounding ares since they really have to scream their prayers day and night on loudspeaker everyday. This I see as an abuse of freedom in Sri Lanka and I hope this can be stopped.

Apr 25, 2012 4:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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