Sri Lankan Muslims have made little use of the traditional Friday prayers, their mosques guarded by armed police and sniffer dogs for fear of retaliation against their community after the Easter attacks.
Some mosques had canceled Friday prayers across the South Asian island, as the government called for a “show of solidarity” with Catholic churches that must keep their doors closed until the situation improves. safe. Many Muslims, who make up 10% of the population, stayed at home to pray.
Kamikazes provoked carnage Sunday in this country of 21 million people by attacking Christian churches and luxury hotels, killing 253 people. The jihadist Islamic State (IS) organization has claimed bloodshed.
Sri Lankan Muslims fear revenge from other communities, but also radical Islamists after religious leaders said they refused to allow suicide bombers to be buried in mosques in the country.
In mosques that kept their prayers Friday in the capital Colombo, the assembly was sparse. The few faithful who came to recollect said that they wanted to defy the radical fringes by this gesture.
“We are sending a message to the extremists that they will not be able to scare us or dissuade us,” Reyyaz Salley, director of the Dawatagaha Jumma mosque in Colombo, told AFP.
“But the main reason is that we are here because we want to say a special prayer for the victims of the attacks on the churches.”
- ‘We must die one day’ –
Twenty policemen and soldiers Friday protected the Dawatagaha Jumma mosque, already threatened in the past by Islamists because it contains a Sufi shrine. Sufi Muslims are considered by the fundamentalists to be heretics because they revere saints.
Security forces prevented people from walking or parking vehicles in front of the mosque. Sign of the prevailing tension, Colombo is teeming with rumors of possible car bomb attacks, which have not been proven for the moment.
Sniffer dogs inspected the bags for explosives. The faithful and journalists were combed before they could enter the place of worship.
“We are not afraid, we have to die one day and it can happen anywhere,” said Reyyaz Salley.
But not everyone shared his philosophy.
According to his director, the mosque regularly receives up to 700 practitioners on Fridays. This week, they were around a hundred.
Prayers were also reduced from one hour normally to fifteen minutes for security reasons.
“I came to pray here because I pray here every day,” 62-year-old Ahamed Riza told AFP before listening to the Imam’s sermon saying that the Prophet Muhammad would have condemned the attacks.
On the other side of the island, on the east coast, mosques were more crowded this Friday. More than 1,000 men and children attended prayers at the Mohiuddin Methaipali Jumma in the predominantly Muslim city of Kattankudy.
“A small group of people perpetrated these attacks, but some blame the entire Sri Lankan Muslim community for this, which is not fair,” Mohammed Ramesh, a mosque official, told AFP.
“The people who did this are not human beings, and all Sri Lankans must unite against that: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims,” he said.
“I pray five times a day for Christian victims since the attacks.”