Police in front of a Muslim-owned clothing store's warehouse in Colombo, Sri Lanka, after it was attacked by a mob.
An angry mob of hundreds of people, led by Buddhist monks, attacked a warehouse belonging to a Muslim-owned clothing chain in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on Thursday. This comes as Buddhist hardliners ramp up their campaigns against Muslims’ lifestyles.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of attacks on Muslim-owned stores throughout the past week in Burma
. One video shows a monk throwing a rock at a security camera in front of the warehouse, as policemen look on and the mob erupts into cheers.
A monk throws a stone at a security camera outside the Fashion Bug warehouse, as policemen look on. Video filmed by Azzam Ameen.
The warehouse belongs to Fashion Bug, a popular clothing chain that operates stores throughout the country. The attackers yelled insults against Muslims throughout the attack. Several people were injured, including the warehouse’s manager and journalists trying to cover the incident.
Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, making them the third largest group after Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamils. During the long civil war that pitted Buddhists against Tamils, Muslims kept a low profile. Four years after the end of the war, they are now being targeted by increasingly vocal Buddhist hardliners, who call for their followers to boycott Muslim-owned businesses and recently pressured the government into getting rid of “halal” labels on food.
The most prominent of these emerging hard-line Buddhist organisations is Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which translates to “Buddhist Power Force”. On Friday, it issued a statement saying that it had nothing to do with the attack against Fashion Bug’s warehouse. During a massive rally
two weeks ago, BBS’s general secretary accused Fashion Bug, as well as another Muslim-owned clothing chain called No Limit, of forcibly converting Buddhist employees, and alleged that “harems [of Buddhist female employees] are being created” by Muslim store managers. Galabodaaththe Gnanasara also said: “We are not asking anyone to go and stone these places and attack them. […] Let’s solve this through discussion.”