Sri Lanka bans protests against Shia pilgrims

Agence France-Presse . Colombo | Published: 01:44, Sep 02,2019


A Sri Lankan court Sunday banned two ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisations from demonstrating against a major Shia holy day, the first on the island since the deadly Easter Sunday suicide bombings.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Colombo Magistrate’s court issued restraining orders against the two groups led by Buddhist monks who planned to disrupt a gathering in Colombo of Dawoodi Bohra, a Shia sect.

An estimated 25,000 adherents from around the world have been meeting in Colombo since Saturday for a 10-day religious event culminating with Ashura.

It is one of the holiest days in Shia Islam and commemorates the 7th century martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.

Gunasekera said police had information that two nationalist groups were planning to disrupt the event in the capital, where police and troops have stepped up security.

It was not immediately clear what the groups were planning, but nationalist groups have usually taken a hardline stand against religious minorities in the Buddhist majority nation of 21 million people.

Sections of a key road near the main Shia Huseini mosque have been shut to accommodate the large number of pilgrims. The spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, arrived in Colombo on Wednesday to lead sermons and also meet with Sri Lankan leaders.

The gathering takes place just over four months after coordinated bomb attacks against three Christian churches and three hotels left at least 258 people dead and nearly 500 wounded.

The Sri Lankan government has blamed the coordinated attacks on a little known local jihadis, while the Islamic State group also claimed responsibility two days after the April 21 bombings.

The majority Buddhist country has been on edge since the bombings, but authorities last month relaxed a four-month-old state of emergency which gave wide powers to police and troops to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.

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