Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that his government would not allow racism or religious extremism in the country and advised the Buddhist majority community to protect the rights of others.

“This is a democratic country with non-Buddhists having equal rights and freedoms. While we safeguard the rights of Buddhists, it is the responsibility of the Buddhists to be exemplary and protect the rights of others,” he told a religious gathering at Weherahena in the south.

Rajapaksa said any attempt to promote religious extremism would supply ammunition to those elements who want to spread false accusations against Sri Lanka.

“All who love the motherland should shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding ethnic and religious harmony,” he said.

His comments came after communal attacks on Muslim-owned businesses that raised religious tensions in the country.

Bodu Bala Sena, a Buddhist nationalist group, is leading a campaign targeting the growing Muslim extremism in the country.

Less than 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population of 20 million are Muslims. The majority are Sinhalese Buddhist and Tamils being Hindu.

Rajapaksa said he appreciated the guidance received from the Buddhist clergy and their historical role in correcting the nation’s path.

“Everyone has the responsibility to ensure that Sri Lanka would not be tagged as a racist and extremist nation,” he added.