A day after Eid celebrations, a mosque in suburban Colombo was attacked by a mob Saturday evening, leaving five persons injured.
Some houses in the vicinity were also damaged in the attack. The mosque is situated off Grandpass Road in a suburb to the north of Colombo where there is a sizeable Muslim population. Following the attack, the police imposed a curfew in the locality and revoked it on Sunday at 7 a.m. However, since the situation seemed volatile, the police reimposed the curfew from 6 p.m. on Sunday to 7 a.m, Monday.
The mood was rather tense in the locality around noon on Sunday. A good number of police and armed Special Task Force personnel were seen near all the entry points to the road on which the mosque is located.Residents were out on the streets, huddled in groups, watching the developments and talking among themselves. Some of them shouted as a few Muslim politicians arrived at the spot, saying the government had not taken any convincing action.
The police also barricaded the inner roads, restricting entry to vehicles. A few Sinhala families living nearby had to explain to the police personnel that they were residents of the area before being allowed access to the lanes beyond the barricaded points.
The mosque, painted dark green, stood tall amid small independent homes aligned close to each other.
Members of the family residing in the home adjoining the mosque, said Saturday's attack was nightmarish. “Around 6.30 p.m., we heard the bell of the temple (Buddhist shrine nearby) and suddenly a group of people ran towards the mosque. They pelted it with big stones,” said one of the women at the home, where four families live together.
They said they suspect Buddhist monks to have played a role in the attack. Ravana Balaya, a fringe Buddhist organisation that earlier demanded closure of the mosque, denied any involvement in the attack, according to local media reports.
“It seemed all staged. The bell went thrice, and the mob came running aggressively and began the attack while our evening prayers were going on. The children got very scared hearing the stones fall on our roof,” said another member of the family.
Their apprehensions not only highlighted the element of fear cased by the attack, but also reflected the growing concern about a rising anti-Muslim wave in Sri Lanka.
For many, the attack -- carried out by allegedly a Buddhist mob – has brought back memories of the attack on Muslim-owned apparel store Fashion Bug in March. Earlier this year, when the relatively new Sinhala Buddhist organisation, Bodhu Bala Sena (Buddhist power force) launched a campaign against halal certification and also spoke of the need to ban the niqab worn by Muslim women, the intolerance towards the Muslim community manifest itself strongly.
On Saturday's attack, Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem – also the leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress that is currently part of the ruling coalition – expressed concern over the lack of action taken so far, news agency Adaderana reported.
However, people like Rilwan, member of the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamath, a socio-religios organisation for Muslims, said they have little hope in the political class. "We have lost faith in those in power. Or community does not have a leadership that can challenge this government,” he said.
Condemning what he termed “majoritarian dominance” in Sri Lanka, Mr. Rilwan said: “Earlier it was the Tamils, now they are clearly targeting us.”