Press Release

GLOBAL MUSLIM LEADERS MUST PROTECT MUSLIM MINORITY RIGHTS IN SRI LANKA

We are expressing our concern on the rights of Muslim minorities in Sri Lanka.

A report of hightened discrimination by Sri Lanka authorities is serious and should be responded by world Muslim leaders.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is set to vote on a resolution expressing concern over the ‘deteriorating’ human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

We are following closely the Anti-Muslim rhetoric which is continuing to plague the Sri Lanka.

We call for the UNHRC to look into the discrimination faced by the minorities in Sri Lanka.

The concern over the “deteriorating” human rights situation in the country must be translated into action.

We object strongly over the discrimination against its minority Muslim population.

Sri Lanka’s decision last year to mandate the cremation of all victims of COVID-19 was internationally condemned by international human rights groups and UN rights experts.

It was only after a year after the decisiom , that the ruling was revoked and the bodies of those who died from COVID-19 , could be buried.

To us this was a “hypocrisy”. We know that the discrimination against minority groups, and polarisation of the minority community from the country’s majority- Sinhala Buddhists- have intensified , since the new regime came into power.

Though the Secretary-General , Dr Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in a statement received a phone call from Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to get Muslim nation’s support in the UNHRC vote , we believe that a genuine commitment by Sri Lanks to stop the discrimination, is still not in place.

We condemn the Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Dr. Sarath Weerasekara who said earlier this month he signed a cabinet paper approving the banning of the burqa. He then said it was a ” proposal ” , after voices of protest and criticism were raised amongst human rights and Muslim groups.

He claimed that the proposal was for “national security” and that it was to ban all facial coverings.

He also said the discrimination levelled against the government were “false” and “made up stories”.

However the Minister says the decision has been taken on ‘national security’ grounds.

The wearing of the burqa in the majority-Buddhist nation was temporarily banned in 2019 after the bombing of churches and hotels.

And on this pretext, the Sri Lanka’s government says it will ban the wearing of the burqa, a full-body veil that covers the face as well, and close more than 1,000 Islamic schools.

Separately, the government on Saturday announced using a controversial anti-terror law to deal with religious “extremism” and gave itself sweeping powers to detain suspects for up to two years for “deradicalisation”.

We reject and condemn the the Minister of Public Security’s claim that “In our early days, Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa,” he said. “It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We are definitely going to ban it.”

This is utterly disputable. There is no shred of evidence that burqa collorates with religious extremism.

We also object to the government plans to ban more than 1,000 Islamic schools that the minister said were flouting national education policy.

The government’s moves on burqas and schools follow an order last year mandating the cremation of COVID-19 victims – against the wishes of Muslims, who bury their dead.

Shreen Saroor, a Sri Lankan peace and women’s rights activist, said the moves of cremating the Covid19 dead bodies come “at a time when the Muslim community has been constantly targeted”.

We take serious note that “It’s part of the Islamophobic reaction in Sri Lanka,” Saroor told Al Jazeera.

“The compulsory cremation policy was revised, and now we hear so many other measures to some form of punishing the Muslim community,” she added, noting that Muslims in the country were not consulted in advance.

We opined the moves against the Muslims are politically motivated.

The moves are violations of Muslim to practise their religion freely.

We also demand that the Prevention of Terrorism Act , should be repealed as it is open to abuse of power.

Under the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he promised a crackdown on “extremism” . He then promulgated regulations allowing the detention of anyone suspected of causing “acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill will or hostility between different communities”. This is a draconian law.

Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA),
anybody can be arrested for saying anything.

The previous government , before Rajapaksa took over, akcnowledged that the PTA had seriously undermined individual freedoms.

We call the OIC and Muslim leaders to raise the voices of the discriminated Muslims in Sri Lanka. The rights of the Muslims must be respected and protected.

OIC must pressure Sri Lanka to stop all kinds of discrimination and cease the Islamophobic campaigns against Muslims.

The Myanmar scenario is now repeated in Sri Lanka and both goverments with the support of some Buddhist extremist and nationalist group are targeting Muslim minorities.

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid
President Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organizations (MAPIM)

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