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Sri Lankan Muslims have faced discrimination in different forms over the years. Justice For All has worked on Sri Lanka as needed in the past, now is the time for sustained advocacy for Sri Lankan in our ummah.

Civil War

There was a 26 year Civil War between the Tamil Tigers and Sinhalese Buddhists from 1983 to 2009 in Sri Lanka. Many Tamils are Hindu, while others are Christian. Being a minority in the country, they were disenfranchised by the majority Sinhalese nationalists and this led to the war. The armed Tamil Tigers fought mainly against the Sri Lankan army during this period, and it ended with the Tigers’ defeat. The United Nations reported that 40,000 civilians were killed at just the end of the war. 

Many Tamils are still displaced since the war and missing individuals have never been found. Families who returned to the northwest island of Iranaithivu in 2018 had been gone for 25 years. This was the first location that those who died to Covid-19 were allowed to be buried, so it can make more sense as to why those just returning home would protest the Sinhalese majority government’s actions of trying to pit minorities against each other. 

Post-Easter Bombing Islamophobia 

Since the Easter bombing of April 2019, Islamophobia has been on the rise in Sri Lanka, in particular by the Buddhist Sinhalese Nationalists. Those who committed the atrocities were outliers of the Sri Lankan community and few – yet Sri Lankan politicians and Sinhalese nationalists have used this to justify harassment and policies directed toward an entire religious group. Since then, there have been attacks on women wearing hijab, boycotts on Muslim businesses, social media rumor and propaganda campaigns, and other orchestrated and directed attacks.

In 2018, Buddhist nationalists had attacked Muslim businesses in the district of Kandy to the point that a state of emergency had been declared.

After COVID, Sri Lanka was forcing cremation (burning of bodies) of Muslims, while the WHO recognized both burial and cremation as safe.

Muslims rightly see this as another attempt at the marginalization of their religious rights and citizenry.

Current Situation

The Sri Lankan government has used the Covid-19 pandemic as a justification for further abusing the rights of minorities. Christians and Muslims bury their deceased, while Hindus and Buddhists cremate theirs. From March 2020 to March 2021, the government forbade anyone who died from Covid-19 to be buried. They claimed this was because the burial could contaminate groundwater, although there was no scientific evidence and UN experts, and the World Health Organization and medical professionals have stated that burials are safe. 

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has been utilized to target mostly Muslims and Tamils. Up to 1,000 Islamic schools are to be closed by the government. Face veils such as burqa and niqab are to be banned, and all Islamic religious items coming into the country are banned. Those who are suspected of racial, religious, or social disharmony can face up to two years in prison without trial under new regulations which call for ‘deradicalization.’ This is terrifyingly parallel to what China is doing to Uyghur Muslims in East Turkestan.

The Goal of
the Sri Lanka Task Force

Stopping human rights and religious freedom violations against the minorities in Sri Lanka.

  • Promote policies that protect religious freedom for minorities in Sri Lanka.
  • Bring awareness among the North Americans about the injustices faced by the minority community in Sri Lanka
  • Create awareness among the political leaders in the US and Canada.
    Keep the members of the US congress and USCIRF informed on violations of religious freedom
  • Advocate with the United Nations and other international bodies, particularly the OIC to prevent human rights and religious freedom violations in Sri Lanka
  • Work with NGOs and civil society organizations to stop the inhumane treatment of the Muslim community.

Currently, Sri Lanka stands as the only country in the world which enforces mandatory cremation of COVID-19 victims as the only means of disposing of bodies, in contradiction to the guidelines set by the WHO and CDC. The WHO guideline has been adhered to by the international community of 185 countries. The mandatory cremation policy by the Sri Lankan government is a discriminatory regulation that represses and violates the religious rights of the minority Christians and Muslims. 

The ostracization and discriminatory treatment of minority communities is not new to Sri Lanka.

After the 30-year-old civil war with the LTTE ended in 2009, other minority groups, specifically Muslims and Christians, have become a consistent target of Sinhala-Buddhist extremists. The attacks on the Muslims and Christian minority have continued with impunity, leading to a systematic build-up of anti-Muslim hysteria with several flashpoints over the last decade. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religious belief, has documented the incidents in his Mission to Sri Lanka report, presented to the Human Rights Council’s Forty-third session, February 24, 2020 – March 2020.  

While sidelining all scientific evidence, the Sri Lankan government has taken no initiative to communicate the reasons for its measures, but instead maintains its violation of the sacrosanct religious rights of its minority citizens.

  • The Sri Lankan government has gone against its own constitution by implementing a cremation only order.
  • The Sri Lanka government transgresses the Geneva Convention of Human Rights, of which it is a signatory, by denying the Muslim minority to bury their loved ones, in accordance with their faith. 
  • The Sri Lankan government has to date FAILED to provide any scientific findings or basis for denying the Muslim minority to fulfill their religious obligation to bury their dead.
  • The Supreme Court dismisses an FR petition against the cremation only order, without any basis – clearly demonstrating that Sri Lanka is taking away any recourse to justice and the right to be fairly treated, as citizens of a sovereign country.

Hatemongering, unverified accusations such as Muslim-owned businesses sterilizing Sinhala women through food and clothing, and Muslims overtaking the Sinhala population – were not just spread by the extreme Buddhist organizations like BBS but also through social media and public campaigns. The organized barrage of hostile propaganda created fear, anger, and mistrust among the Sinhala population.

For the first time in Sri Lanka’s history of engagement with the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, High Commissioner Michelle Blanchet is recommending Sri Lanka’s referral to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the permanent tribunal tasked with dealing with grave international crimes such as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Actions you can take

Tweet At President of Sri Lanka

Call Sri Lankan Ambassador To The United States

Call the Sri Lankan Ambassador and ask that they stop burning Muslim bodies. Add you info and the system will automatically connect the call. Use the script provided.

Call Sri Lankan Ambassador To Canada

Call the Sri Lankan Ambassador and ask that they stop burning Muslim bodies. Add you info and the system will automatically connect the call. Use the script provided. CLICK HERE 

Join us for the Fundraiser

Join us for the launch fundraiser for the Sri Lanka Task Force by clicking here

Donate for Sri Lanka

Help fund our efforts to help Sri Lankan Muslims by donating for them. Click here to make a donation

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