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Muslims attacked and fleeing their homes in Sri Lanka as violence flares

Photograph: Muslims pay tribute to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks in Mannar today.

Reports have emerged of Muslims businesses and homes being attacked in Sri Lanka as well as Muslims forced to flee their homes, in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings that have killed more than 350 people so far.

At least two Muslim shops have been burnt down, mosques have been pelted with stones and there have been several incidents of attacks on homes and individuals, including Pakistani refugees. A Sri Lankan parliamentarian with the prime minister’s United National Party has also called for a ban on burqas, a type of traditional Muslim attire. 

In Negombo hundreds of Pakistani Muslims were forced to flee their homes fearing further violence. Reuters states that the local community have organised buses, after threats from of revenge attacks and reports that some Muslims have been evicted from their homes. 

At least two Muslim-owned businesses have also been burnt down, including one in Bandaragama.  Family of the owners told the New York Times that the arson attack happened, despite there being a military-military-enforced curfew in place. “Maybe the police were there,” added the owner's son.

The New York Times also reported attacks on individuals, including a mob attacking Pakistani refugee Auranzeb Zabi and his children, as he ran towards an army checkpoint. It added,

“There the mob caught up with him, he said, and delivered a harsh beating, begging the soldiers to let them kill him.”  

In Negombo, gangs reportedly moved from house to house, smashing windows and attacking Muslims and threatening to kill them.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan MP Ashu Marasinghe submitted a private member’s motion to parliament calling for a ban on burqas, stating he was “considering the national security”. His proposal found surprising support from the Sri Lanka Thauheedh Jamath’s secretary Mohamed Faseeh, who reportedly said “Nowhere does it say in Islam to cover a woman’s face”. “There is national security to consider,” he added. “Just take the burqa off.”

Muslims across the island remain fearful of further attacks against them as the death toll from the attacks continues to rise. In recent years there have been several attacks on the community, including week-long riots last year, that killed at least two people. 

Commenting on the backlash the Muslim community faces, Malik Farhan, another Pakistani refugee, said, “We don’t feel safe anymore in Sri Lanka”.

See more from the New York Times here, Reuters here, NPR here and the Independent here.

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