Featured image courtesy Reuters

We write to condemn ongoing violence against Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, especially the brutal attacks perpetrated over the past week. We are outraged that the government has failed to act speedily and decisively to stop the violence and bring those responsible to justice. The government must act firmly to prevent more destruction and bloodshed.

The scale and nature of recent attacks on the Muslim community are the result of years of successive regimes in Sri Lanka pandering to chauvinist nationalists. Targeted and organized attacks against Muslim communities in Ampara, Teldeniya, and Kandy are not isolated incidents, but must be seen within a longer history of attacks on Muslims in Sri Lanka, including wartime violence by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against northern and eastern Muslims. After the end of the war, majoritarian attacks against Muslims living in the East and South have escalated. In May 2014, Sinhala Buddhist nationalists attacked and burned the Muslim-owned store, Fashion Bug, and its head offices in Colombo. In June 2014, Sinhala Buddhist nationalists again carried out anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama, Beruwala and other areas in the Kalutara District. In 2017 alone, there were 20 documented incidents of violence against Muslims, including the September 2017 attack on a UNHRC shelter housing 31 Muslim Rohingya refugees in Colombo. Sinhala Buddhist monks led this last attack in direct violation of international human rights treaties on the protection of refugees, which Sri Lanka has ratified. In some of these instances, members of the police and security forces were present, but did nothing to halt the perpetrators or protect the victims. While some civil society organizations in Sri Lanka have condemned these orchestrated acts of violence, the government has failed to hold the responsible political and religious figures to account. Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), for example, openly propagates hate speech against Muslims, and promotes xenophobia, racism, and bigotry. Such actors do not operate in a vacuum; the ‘inaction’ of political authorities and the police against them is in fact an active intervention, encouraging groups like the BBS and Maha Sona Balakaya to act with impunity.

We, members of the Sri Lankan diaspora and Sri Lankans living abroad, from all of the country’s diverse communities, stand in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers. We believe that declaring a state of emergency and curbing free media and social networks are not sustainable solutions to issues of equal rights and the protection of minorities. In the long run, such measures will only expand the repressive powers of the state. The government must take swift action to bring those responsible for anti-Muslim violence to justice. We call on the government to hold accountable law enforcement and political authorities who have reneged on their responsibility to protect all members of the Sri Lankan community. We also call on the government to move on long-term questions of constitutional reform that can lay the foundation for a future of peace with justice and security for all its citizens, including minorities.

  1. Vasuki Nesiah, New York University
  2. Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham, Colgate University
  3. Mythri Jegathesan, Santa Clara University
  4. Kanishka Goonewardena, University of Toronto
  5. V.V. Ganeshananthan, University of Minnesota
  6. Qadri Ismail, University of Minnesota
  7. Sharika Thiranagama, Stanford University
  8. Sonali Perera, City University of New York
  9. Kitana Ananda, City University of New York
  10. Sanjeevi Nuhumal, Haverford College
  11. Kathleen Fernando, Kenyon College
  12. Kanchana Ruwanpura, University of Edinburgh
  13. Pradeep Sangapala, University of Alberta
  14. Arjun Guneratne, Macalester College
  15. Amarnath Amarasingam, University of Waterloo
  16. Arjini Nawal, Harvard University
  17. Neil DeVotta, Wake Forest University
  18. Nihal Perera, Ball State University
  19. Sandya Hewamanne, University of Essex
  20. Nira Wickramasinghe, Leiden University
  21. Nalin Jayasena, Miami University
  22. Prashanth Kuganathan, Columbia University
  23. Shiyana Gunasekara, Johns Hopkins University
  24. Sukanya Emmanuel, Cornell University
  25. E Valentine Daniel, Columbia University
  26. Varuni Wimalasiri, Bournemouth University
  27. Dinidu Karunanayake, Miami University
  28. Vidyamali Samarasinghe, American University
  29. Mahesan Niranjan, University of Southampton
  30. Nethra Samarawickrema, Stanford University
  31. Dilshanie Perera, Stanford University
  32. Myra Sivaloganathan, McMaster University
  33. Namika Raby, California State University
  34. Geethika Dharmasinghe, Cornell University
  35. Sudesh Mantillake, University of Maryland & University of Peradeniya
  36. Eshantha Peiris, University of British Columbia
  37. Devaka Gunawardena, University of California, Los Angeles
  38. Themal Ellawala, Clark University
  39. Shobhana Xavier, Ithaca College
  40. Nalika Gajaweera, University of Southern California
  41. Ashwini Vasanthakumar, King’s College London
  42. Yalini Dream, University of San Francisco
  43. Mihirini Sirisena, University of Edinburgh
  44. A.R.M. Imtiyaz, Temple University
  45. Deborah Philip, City University of New York
  46. Tony Anghie, University of Utah
  47. Tanuja Thurairajah, University of Zurich
  48. Sammani Perera, Miami University
  49. Achinthya Bandara, Texas Tech University
  50. Kasun Gajasinghe, Montclair State University
  51. Upul Wickramasinghe, University of Durham
  52. Thushara Hewage, University of Ottawa
  53. Tariq Jazeel, University College London
  54. Kanya D’Almeida, Columbia University