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Sri Lanka’s ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ bank doubles down after Muslim woman refused entry

Sampath Bank, a commercial bank in Sri Lanka, has defended its staff after a viral video showing security officers at its Dehiwala branch demanded a Muslim women remove her headscarf before she enters the premises.

The video shows a Muslim woman and a family member stopped by security officers at the branch, who demanded she remove her headscarf, even as mask-wearing members of the public and staff walk by.

Though there was widespread backlash and comments that this was another example of everyday racism in Sri Lanka, the bank meanwhile claimed this was a “safety” policy. "We have a duty to our valued customers to ensure their safety within the bank, which is why we request customers to help us establish their identity,” read a statement from the bank.

“Sampath Bank does not discriminate or marginalise people of any socio-ethnic group or religion,” the bank claimed.

Nimal Perera, a prominent businessman and Sampath Bank shareholder, meanwhile tweeted that Sampath Bank was "formed to serve Sinhala Buddhists”. 

“Don’t take me as a racist,” he added. “I am not that. Truth is that.”

In 2018, Hatton National Bank came under criticism and was accused of racism after it suspended two Tamil employees over the commemoration of the Mullivaikkal massacre on May 18. 

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