A crackdown on dissenting voices – those who condemn Islamism and criticize the government – has made Sri Lanka’s Muslims afraid to speak up.
Since the President of Sri Lankan Got Participated Rajapaksa came into power 2019 things have gone worst for the Muslim minority in the country. Sri Lankan Muslims make up only 10% of the country’s total population; the majority are Sinhalese Buddhists, while most Tamil people are Hindus and Christians. However, even though Sri Lanka is a diverse country, the current government wants to ensure that voices of dissidents will be silenced.
Government critics in Sri Lanka have had a long history of persecution, but recently the government has taken a more active role in punishing the Muslim community. One such example is arrest of a former government adviser, Azath Salley, who famously supported minority human rights during his time as a politician.
Salley was falsely accused of having “links” to the Easter attacks and vandalism of Buddhist statues in a town called Mawanella. However, many Sri Lankan Muslims in the community know that the former governor has tried to warn the government about it National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ) terror and strong condemn act of violent terror.
In fact, Salley provided the government with information about the extremists a year before the attack, but the government decided not to act. Salley had it told The Hindu said that he “informed the highest levels of government about the activities of the extremists many times.” He also claimed that the Rajapaksa administration’s Ministry of Defense had sponsored the NTJ for many years before the tragic Easter attacks on April 21, 2019.
Despite that history, Salley herself was arrested March 17, 2021, for alleged involvement in the Easter bombing.
Salley wasn’t the only one facing the penalty for speaking out. A female Muslim human rights activist, who did not want to be named, said she was reprimanded by police for speaking out against the burqa ban. She also said that people who openly criticize the Islamic policies that the government has taken, such as forced cremation, are at stake. She said the police officers told her that if she continued to criticize the government’s policies, she would be arrested and her family would be in danger.
Many Muslim women in Sri Lanka told me that they wanted to file a lawsuit against the government for discrimination but were afraid of being reprimanded. Some Muslim activists have received death threats when they speak out against fear of Islamophobia. Many of these women have been told that if they speak up and file a lawsuit in international court, they will face “dire consequences.” Some of these Muslim women have even planned to leave the country, but fear that if they leave their families behind their loved ones, it will be harmed for whatever they choose to say about the government in the country. out.
An increasing number of Muslims have been threatened or arrested on false charges. Even Muslim politicians who are determined to resist the Easter April bombings are being arrested for alleged involvement in the attacks.
As a Sri Lankan Muslim, I fear for my country’s Muslims. I used to visit Sri Lanka almost every year, before COVID-19, but now I am concerned about being blamed for speaking out about the injustices facing my fellow Muslims. I have witnessed the persecution of many Muslims over the years by supporters of Rajapaksa.
Outstanding voices of dissent of Muslims are being threatened, harassed, and frightened by the lives of their families. However, despite many ongoing human rights violations in the country, the Sri Lankan government continued to avoid accountability and impunity. It is time for the international community to speak out against the campaign against Muslims and to call on the government against what it is: a textbook dictatorship.