Sept 06, Colombo: A comment made by the Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse attributing the rising religious tensions in the country to the Muslim extremism has disturbed the Muslim allies of the government.
Both Rauf Hakeem Sri Lanka's Justice Minister and the leader of the main Muslim party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the leader of the All Ceylon Muslim Congress (ACMC), Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiyutheen have deplored the Defense Secretary's statement alleging Muslim extremism in the country.
Hakeem criticized the Defense Secretary's comments saying that he was disturbed by the warning that extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka.
"We are extremely disturbed by the specific reference to the Muslim community of Sri Lanka as possible breeding grounds of extremism within the country," AFP quoted Hakeem as saying in a statement.
"I would like to publicly contradict the assertion of the secretary of defense," he said.
Delivering the keynote address at the just concluded Defense Seminar 2013, Rajapaksa, who is also President Mahinda Rajapaksa's younger brother, said that there are some foreign groups that wish to encourage Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves more with the global Muslim community, reducing their integration with the rest of the population.
"It is a known fact that Muslim Fundamentalism is spreading all over the world and in this region," Defense Secretary said adding that Sri Lanka's law enforcement agencies and security forces are concerned about the situation.
He said there have been instances where extremist elements were found in transit in Sri Lanka and were arrested and handed over to appropriate authorities.
"The possibility that such extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern," Rajapaksa explained during his speech.
Hakeem warned him 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."
Meanwhile, Bathiyutheen deploring the Defense Secretary's statement said that there has not been a single incident where a Muslim had been identified or arrested for having involved in extremist activities.
"Muslims all over the country deplore the said statement and are highly perturbed particularly at a time when there is sudden eruption of hatred directed at Muslims by certain interest elements which we believe needs to be investigated to get to its root," Bathiyutheen said in a statement released to local media.
He said the Muslims in the country have tolerated the provocative attacks by extremists on their places of worship and of their faith itself as well as their practices as Muslims for more than one year now.
"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 said in the statement.
He said his party as a partner in the government has stood with it in times of need.
"Therefore it is in the same spirit as well as in the best interest of the community that we represent that we call upon the Defense secretary to clarify this statement so as to dispel any mistrust that the particular statement has created," he said.
Sri Lanka's Muslim community and places of their worship and businesses have increasingly come under attack by Buddhist extremist groups such as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Ravana Balaya. The BBS successfully campaigned against the Halal certification of foods in the country.