Karma Foul: Buddhist Monk Mob Kills 3, Wounds At Least 80 Muslims in Sri Lanka

It’s no secret: Sri Lanka has been nurturing a particularly orthodox brand of Buddhism for many generations. A few months back, a vacationing Brit was arrested then deported upon arriving at the airport in Colombo just for displaying her upper-arm tattoo of the Buddha. Heresy!

But rarely does Sri Lanka’s dharma devotion turn deadly, as it did late over the weekend when an unruly mob of Buddhist monks spurred a vicious rampage against Muslim mosques and other buildings in two popular resort cities, Aluthgama and Beruwala. As of late Monday, three Muslims were reported dead and at least 80 others were seriously injured, according to Al Jazeera. Number of arrests: zero.

Monks from a Sinhala Buddhist sect known as Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Force, have been implicated in the violence, which Sri Lanka’s leaders hoped late Monday had finally been snuffed out by deploying 1,000 soldiers to trouble spots and implementing a curfew.

“At least nine shops and up to 40 houses have been gutted in Aluthgama,” Sri Lankan spokesman Hilmy Ahmed told Al Jazeera, “while three mosques were attacked.”

After years of intensified threats against Muslims by Buddhist Force, the violence came to a head on Sunday afternoon, when Bodu Bala Sena monks led a march through an area of Aluthgama with a large faction of minority Muslims. It wasn’t long before the march became a mob.

“Some Buddhists are deliberately targeting Muslims,” Ahmed said. “But unfortunately police have not been able to protect the minorities.”

Though few would deny a general animosity between the two ideologies, Ahmed chalked up the violence to a rift being fomented by the most extremist of Buddhists, “a petty feud between two individuals (that) has been allowed to take a religious tone. The extremist Buddhists led by BBS attacked Muslims and are still in the area despite the curfew.”

Other leaders, like Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, have lashed out against the government for failing to protect the Muslim minority. At one point during the unrest, a special police squad had to storm a school to rescue Faiser Mustapha, a deputy minister, who was trapped amid the mob with dozens of Muslims.

Hakeem implored “all relevant parties to remain calm and not to instigate further violence” so that law enforcement could restore order and something like justice might emerge from the rubble. “The attacks last night will not be tolerated and we will prosecute any and all responsible.”

It’s a fine time for Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be visiting allies in Bolivia. From afar, Rajapaksa said he wouldn’t tolerate “anyone (taking) the law into their own hands.” Just weeks ago, Muslim leaders urged Rajapaksa to do something to protect them.

The US Embassy in the capital city of Colombo, just an hour’s drive from some of the worst violence in Aluthgama, issued a statement Monday pointed directly at Sri Lankan authorities:

“We urge the government to ensure that order is preserved and the lives of all citizens, places of worship and property are protected. We urge the authorities to investigate these attacks and bring those responsible to justice. We also urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint and respect the rule of law.”

Yeah. What would Buddha do?

[Image courtesy of the Colombo Telegraph]

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