Controversial Buddhist monk from Myanmar Ashin Wirathu, accused of leading an anti-Muslim movement in Burma, on Sunday pledged his support to a hard-line Sinhala-Buddhist group in Sri Lanka which faces similar allegations.
Speaking at the convention of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), roughly Buddhist Power Force when translated, Wirathu said he would work with the BBS to protect their common religion that, he said, was facing threats from Islamic jihadists, according to media reports.
The BBS, besides leading a campaign against halal certification last year, allegedly played a role in attacks against Muslim-owned establishments in Sri Lanka. The BBS has denied involvement and the Sri Lanka government — accused of supporting the organisation — has also denied backing the BBS.
In June this year, a violent clash between Buddhists and Muslims broke out in Aluthgama, a southwestern coastal town about 60 km south of Colombo, following a provocative speech by BBS leader Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera.
Often accused of making hate speeches, Buddhist monk Wirathu at Sunday’s meeting said his movements would join hands with the BBS to protect and defend the “threatened Buddhist” the world over, according to news agency AFP.‘Thankful to Rajapaksa’
He said Muslim extremists had tried to scuttle his visit to Sri Lanka, that shares cultural and religious links with Myanmar.
“I am thankful to the President [Mahinda Rajapakse] for granting me a visa in spite of attempts by Muslim extremists to prevent my visit,” he said.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka had warned the authorities that allowing Wirathu to visit “would pose a serious threat to peace in our beloved motherland”.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress — a political party aligned to the Mahinda Rajapaksa-led coalition — sought special protection ahead of the meeting to ensure safety of citizens.
The controversial monk’s visit comes at a time when Sri Lanka faces a U.N. resolution calling for a probe into its rights record. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also repeatedly underlined religious intolerance as an issue of serious concern in Sri Lanka.
BBS leader Galagodaatte Gnanasara said both of them were “peaceful monks with no blood on our hands”, according to AFP.