South Asian Insider
Opinion and Editorial
From bombings to anti-Muslim riots Sri Lanka descends deeper into turmoil
(News Agencies)- A few months ago Kumar Sangakkara, one of Sri Lanka's biggest cricket stars, asked a gathering of schoolchildren to each strike his or her palm with a single finger. Then, speaking over their feeble applause, Sangakkara directed them as they added fingers to the percussion. Soon enough, the moral of the story resounded through the field where they sat: the power of their diverse island nation's many "moving parts" -- divided by age, religion or language -- working together.How faraway such a dream seems now. Last month's Easter bombings targeted churches and hotels, killing over 250 people and re-opening political wounds as it shattered the relative peace Sri Lanka has known since the end of its civil war. The terrorist group Islamic State claimed it had a hand in the attacks, which were blamed on two local groups. Now, Sri Lankan authorites are working to contain a worrying outbreak of communal violence.Attacks on mosques and property owned by Muslims -- a minority population in Sri Lanka -- have been reported in North Western Province. One man, Mohamed Ameer Mohamed Sally, has died of stab wounds in Puttalam district. Muslims who spoke to TRT World, a Turkish state-run channel, complained of soured relations with friends or threats to their livelihood. A man who witnessed the ransacking of a mosque in Kinyama provided harrowing testimony: "They destroyed and burned Korans, broke every glass window and door and urinated on the water storage which Muslims used to take ablution." Agence France-Presse reports that the most recent violence began in Chilaw, in Puttalam district, where Christians perceived a shopkeeper's Facebook post -- "Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry" -- to be a threat. A mosque and businesses including the man's shop were attacked; he has reportedly been arrested.
Sri Lanka has now relaxed an overnight curfew imposed on Monday everywhere except the restive North Western Province, and temporarily blocked some social media. "I appeal to all citizens to remain calm and not be swayed by false information," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on May 13. "Security forces are working tirelessly to apprehend terrorists and ensure the security of the country, but each time there is civil unrest, we increase their burden and hamper ongoing investigations."
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