COLOMBO: Muslim religious leaders in Sri Lanka are trying to calm religious tensions by telling stores to sell halal meat only to Muslims, after protests by hard-liners from the nation’s Buddhist majority.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, Sri Lanka’s main body of religious leaders which issues the halal certificates, asked retailers to ensure that certified products were offered only to Muslims.
“We want to promote peaceful co-existence and harmony,” ACJU president Mufti Rizwe told reporters in Colombo, as the organization called for stores to have separate shelves offering halal and non-halal food.
Their move to defuse tensions came after thousands of nationalist Buddhists staged a rally recently to demand that all shops in the country clear their stocks of halal food by April.
Muslim religious leaders said a boycott of halal products organized by the Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Force, had created tensions that could erupt into full-blown violence in the country.
Nationalist Buddhist monks and their supporters also launched a campaign to boycott halal-slaughtered meat as well as other products that carry a halal certificate.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa urged monks not to incite religious hatred and violence, amid reports of a wave of attacks and intimidation targeting Muslim businesses.
The Buddhist Force has distanced itself from the violence.