Two senior ministers in the Rajapaksa Government yesterday hit out hard against Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for his remarks that Sri Lanka was facing threats from Muslim Extremism, echoing the sentiments of Sinhala hardline groups operating in the country, inciting violence against the Muslim community.
SLMC Leader and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem said he was extremely disturbed by the specific reference to the Muslim community as possible breeding grounds of extremism in the country.
“I would like to publicly contradict the assertion of the Secretary MOD,” Hakeem said, warning that Sri Lanka may be antagonising Islamic nations by making generalised statements about Muslim fundamentalism.
Hakeem warned the Government not to interfere with religion and culture and leave it in the hands of the respective people “as in the case of all enlightened democracies.
President Rajapaksa’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen deplored the statement made by Gotabaya Rajapaksa alleging Muslim extremism in the country. “The statement seemingly gives credentials to the false claim made by certain communal elements. These elements are hired by some invisible forces to discredit the government in the international arena by whipping up communal hatred through cooked-up stories,” Minister Bathiudeen charged in a statement issued today.
Bathiudeen said Muslims in Sri Lanka have always been patriotic and even stood against separatism paying dearly in terms of lives and property as a result and suffered the ethnic cleansing from the North.
He said Muslims have been tolerance in the face of provocative attacks on their places of worship and their faith itself as well as their practices. “In any country there are individual criminals such as murderers, smugglers, rapists and drug peddlers belonging to every community, to deal with whom there are laws. However, a tendency prevails today to depict a picture portraying the Muslim community as a whole as the culprit when a crime is committed by an individual Muslim while offenders belonging to other communities are treated as individual offenders,” he charged.
Bathiudeen has called on the Defence Secretary to clarify his statement in order to dispel any mistrust created.