Is Islam against Tamil culture
Sri Lanka is a democracy in which the prerequisites for a peaceful coexistence of religions and ethnic groups are fundamentally given. After decades of civil war between the predominantly Hindu Tamils and the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese up to 2009, the country has been in a phase of reconciliation since its political opening in 2015. The government in office between 2015 and 2019 had made national reconciliation a priority and members of all religions relevant in Sri Lanka were represented in the cabinet. After the violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in 2018 and the terrorist attacks on churches and hotels at Easter 2019, the government and leading representatives of all religions repeatedly called for peace and reconciliation in joint appeals.
While many of the predominantly Hindu Tamils consider themselves an oppressed minority on the Sinhala-Buddhist-dominated island of Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese population feels like a minority in a Tamil-dominated region (including the 70 million Tamils in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu) . There are members of Christian religions in both ethnic groups. The Muslim population group in Colombo and the Sinhalese parts of the country has largely integrated itself while respecting their religious principles, while the coexistence of Muslims and Tamils in the north and east of the country has not always been free of tension.
Although the general Freedom of religion constitutional protection enjoys, becomes the Buddhism is constitutionally privileged and also benefits from this in everyday reality. In particular, the great influence of radical Buddhist monks, who in some cases pro-voke religious conflicts, is problematic. There is hardly any criminal law action against this, and the government and authorities are often passive in the event of attacks.
Demographic proportions of religious communities
Sri Lanka has a population of around 22 million. Of these, about 70 percent are Buddhists, 13 percent Hindus, 10 percent Muslim and 7 percent Christian. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis; the majority of the Christian population is Roman Catholic. For the majority of the residents of Sri Lanka, religion is of great importance.
The Religions in Sri Lanka are strongly linked to ethnicity. The majority of Buddhists are Sinhalese and the majority of Hindus are Tamils.
Sri Lanka joined the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Pact) on June 11, 1980.
Freedom of religion and belief is protected by two articles of the constitution. Article 10 of the Sri Lankan Constitution provides that every person has a "right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief / belief of his choice". Article 14 para. 1 of the The Constitution grants citizens, individually and collectively, the right to manifest their religion or belief / belief in worship, activity, practice and teaching in public or in private. The Constitution does not contain any express restrictions on religious freedom Freedom of expression, association and assembly Laws to maintain religious harmony can be restricted. Blasphemy can be sanctioned in Sri Lanka with up to two years imprisonment (Articles 290 and 291 of the Criminal Code).
The constitution gives Buddhism a prominent role in Article 9 and obliges the government to protect it. However, it does not make Buddhism the state religion. There are four different ministries, each responsible for the interests of one of the religions. There is no ministry for general religious affairs.
In principle, religious groups do not have to register with the government. However, registration as a trust, corporation, NGO or company is required to obtain a building permit for a new place of worship, to open a bank account or to purchase property. Religious organizations receive the highest state recognition and permission to run schools freely if they are recognized by a parliamentary resolution that requires a simple majority.
Parts of the Civil status and family law are regulated differently for each population group. This is a legacy of British colonial times, when different civil rights rules applied to different races and religions. For example, the General Marriage Registration Ordinance (GMRO) applies to all citizens except the Muslim population who marry within their religion. While most Sinhalese Buddhists have a choice of whether If they marry under the provisions of the GMRO or the Kandyan Marriage and Divorce Act of 1952, a purely Muslim marriage is always subject to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) "). Under the MMDA, the minimum marriage age of 18 does not apply, wives are severely disadvantaged compared to husbands, e.g. with regard to the requirements for divorce. In addition, polygamy is prohibited only to wives. Hindus also have their own civil law regulations, such as the Hindu Inheritance Act, which puts women at a severe disadvantage. The recent demand for standardization of the various civil law regulations (“one law, one country”) is one important state task, the implementation of which is still pending.
Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors
The state is often not perceived as a neutral actor by the religious / ethnic minorities.
There are repeated reports that local security forces behave passively when extremist Buddhists attack other religious groups. For example, in March 2018 during attacks on Muslim shops and institutions in the Kandy region, when a mob instigated by Buddhist provocateurs rioted after the death of a (Buddhist) TukTuk driver after a scuffle with a small group of Muslims. Since the local police were apparently reluctant to intervene, a state of emergency was declared; only the army was able to calm the situation down again. So far, most of the perpetrators of ethno-religious violence have gone unpunished or proceedings drag on for years.
As a result of the terrorist attacks on churches and hotels on April 21, 2019, NGOs reported unilateral action by the security forces against the Muslim population, which the security forces legitimized by preventing terrorism. Among other things, house searches of thousands of Muslim families were carried out in the days following the attacks. The Muslim community found itself under general suspicion. In addition, the then President Siri-sena banned the wearing of face veils in order to protect national security, a measure which, according to Muslim representatives, is primarily directed against burqas and niqabs. In isolated cases, local authorities have tried to deny Muslim traders access to weekly markets, as this is necessary for local representatives to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. However, some of these measures were prohibited by the courts.
In particular from evangelical churchesEspecially in rural areas, there are always complaints about official harassment, e.g. when it comes to building permits (churches / schools).
Social conflicts with a religious component
Since the ethnic groups are closely linked to the religions, almost every ethnic dispute in Sri Lanka also has a religious dimension. A position that should not be underestimated belongs to the Buddhist monks, who after independence became increasingly involved in politics and promoted the interests of Sinhala Buddhism at the expense of the minorities. The Buddhists see themselves as the keepers of the Sinhalese (majority) culture.
The equation of Buddhism and (Sinhala) nation is used by radical Buddhists specifically to Primary fears of the Sinhalese majority of the population of foreign infiltration above all by Tamils (with reference to the 70 million Tamils in neighboring southern India) and increasingly also by Muslims.
Due to the increasing Influence from abroad, especially from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States (Wahhabi preachers, building mosques and an Islamic university) The Muslim community in Sri Lanka has also become more conservative over the past 20 years. This can also be seen in the establishment of madrasas in recent years, with the result that some Muslim children no longer attend state schools. As a result of the terrorist attacks, the government now wants to increase the supervision of the Ministry of Education over all schools in order to guarantee that a uniform curriculum is taught. Legal measures against hate propaganda are also being considered.
Religiously motivated attacks on Tamils no longer occupy a significant position in media reporting. But there are complaints that Buddhist temples are increasingly being built in the areas inhabited by the Tamil population. A constitutional reform with federal elements initiated by the new government in 2015 has not yet been implemented. Another point of contention is the formulation of the (prominent) position of Buddhism in the draft constitution.
Since the end of the civil war in 2009 is one increasing Islamophobia to observe, which culminated, among other things, in riots against the Muslim population in 2014 and 2018; no prosecution has taken place to this day. The incitement to preaching by radical Buddhists, represented by groups like Bodu Bala Sena / BBS ("Buddhist Armed Forces") or Mahason Balayakaya, was also responsible for these riots. Although only a minority, they seem to determine the public discourse, a consequent government intervention is not recognizable. President Siri-sena had early pardoned the leader of the radical nationalist Buddhist group BBS, the monk Gnanasera Thero, who had only been sentenced to six years in prison in 2018. This triggered harsh criticism in civil society.
Those responsible for racist attacks and also physical attacks on those who think differently Buddhist extremists Since 2018, they have been increasingly making themselves heard via social media and primarily attacking Muslims with racist and aggressive rhetoric and hate speech. Violent riots broke out in the Kandy district as early as March 2018. Riots that broke out in mid-May 2019 after the terrorist attacks at Easter 2019 resulted in property damage to mosques, Muslim shops and vehicles. A Muslim died. As a result of the two events mentioned, the Sri Lankan government blocked online platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Other minority groups have also been attacked by Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists. The fear that the Buddhist domination of the country would be called into question by Christian proselytizing has prompted Buddhist monks and organizations in the past to attack Christian organizations initially with violence and then with bureaucratic requirements.421 Christian organizations that provided local aid after the 2004 tsunami were seen as a particular threat. From 2015 until the Islamist terrorist attacks in 2019, which primarily targeted Christians, attacks on Christian institutions decreased.
Interreligious cooperation structures
At the beginning of June 2019, then Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took up a proposal from the Buddhist clergy, a state one "Religious reconciliation council" and was in contact with all religious leaders without this being implemented.
421 See the example for Sri Lanka in the sub-chapter on restricting one's own religion or worldview (mission) in the chapter on violations of religious and ideological freedom through blasphemy and anti-conversion laws of this report.
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