Anti-Muslim rhetoric on the rise in Sri Lanka
While anti-Muslim violence continues to spread like wildfire throughout Myanmar, the same extremist rhetoric is beginning to gain real traction within Sri Lanka.
The post-colonial revival of Buddhism draws comparisons between both Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Used as a response to colonialism, Buddhism encouraged the growth of nationalism during Myanmar and Sri Lanka's initial period of independence. Today, a combination of pro-nationalism and economic hardship has created a breeding ground for Buddhist extremism within the two Asian countries.
Despite only making up around 9% of Sri Lanka's society, Muslims have now become the prime target of religious hate-crime from groups like 'Bodu Bala Sena' (BBS or Forces of Buddhist Power); hate crime that Sri Lankan moderates are already comparing to Nazism of 1930s Germany. Such groups are also very much evident in Myanmar, with the recent surge of terror created by the '969' extremist group, led by extremist Buddhist monk- Wirathu.
Tactics, such as handing out leaflets and sending SMS messages encouraging Buddhist Sinhalese and Tamils to avoid shopping at Muslim shops, have been on the increase in the last month. Monks have even been reported as having led some of the local demonstrations; this includes the latest attack on Muslim-owned shopping store 'Fashion Bug'. Footage shows a monk throwing his shoe at the shop's security camera while Sri Lankan police stand by, simply watching the events escalate.
Muslim business owners have been accused of forcing Sinhalese out of business, whilst Muslim stores are being called to ban all their halal products, and Imams are being accused of building Mosques on Temple grounds/ruins by the BBS. Growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in Sri Lanka shows signs of mimicking the plight of the Rohingya and other Muslim communities in Myanmar, and at an alarming rate. Buddhist extremists are using their staunch support of Government officials and state-owned media to successfully manipulate and contradict principle Buddhist tenets that teach moderation and non-violence.