Sri Lanka to demolish mosque after monks’ protest

Apr 23, 2012, 5:01 PM

DAMBULLA, Sri Lanka (AP) – Sri Lankan officials have decided to demolish a mosque and a Hindu temple under pressure from Buddhist monks who demanded their removal from a Buddhist sacred area.

Ruling party lawmaker Lakshman Perera said Monday that the places of worship and other buildings will be relocated to sites outside the designated sacred zone within six months.

Thousands of Buddhist monks and lay supporters stormed the mosque in the central Sri Lankan town of Dambulla on Friday, saying it was constructed illegally. They forced their way into the building and damaged some furniture, dispersing only after officials promised a solution on Monday.

Mohamed Saleemdeen, a board member of the mosque, denied it was an illegal building and said it had been there long before the area was declared a sacred zone about 20 years ago.

He said his father and grandfather were officials at the mosque.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, an umbrella group of Muslim organizations, said the mosque was duly registered.

“It is regrettable that a group of radical elements of the Buddhist community against the will of the majority has been consistently undermining the coexistence of the different ethnic communities in Sri Lanka,” it said in a statement Monday.

“We call upon the religious, political and civil leadership of the Buddhist community to intervene immediately and re-establish the cordial relationship which existed between the Buddhists and Muslims prior to this unfortunate incident.”

Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s state religion and monks are powerful in political and social affairs.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Sri Lanka to demolish mosque after monks’ protest