Colombo: A red-robbed Buddhist monk calmly picked up stones and hurled them at a security camera. Then, as police looked on, his followers smashed up a popular, Muslim-owned clothing store.
March's attack on the Fashion Bug chain near the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, filmed by a local television station whose cameraman was attacked by the mob, was the most public outburst in a growing anti-Muslim campaign by Buddhist nationalist groups in the island nation. The escalation in attacks and anti-Muslim rhetoric has caused fears of a new wave of ethnic violence in a country still recovering from a quarter-century civil war between the government, controlled by ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists, and a mainly Hindu ethnic Tamil rebel group.
"They just finished hunting the Tamils, without solving any of the issues, and now they are starting on the Muslim hunt. Virtually all minority communities are being threatened," said Muslim political leader Azad Salley.
The anti-Muslim campaign has been led by Buddhist monks and is fast gaining ground among youth through raging speeches and ludicrous conspiracy theories spread on social media. The leaders of the campaign complain that Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists, who make up almost 75 per cent of the country's 20 million people and control the government and the military, are under threat from the 9 per cent of the country that is Muslim.