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Sri Lanka Shut Down Facebook, WhatsApp, And Instagram To Stop Anti-Muslim Violence

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The government of Sri Lanka has announced a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday, following attacks by the Buddhists on the minority Muslim community in the central district of Kandy. It began on Sunday as an angry mob, predominantly composed of the Sinhalese ethnic group, targeted Muslim houses and business establishments, and at least one mosque.

There has been an increasing tension between these two communities in recent years, with Buddhist extremists accusing Muslims of forcing people to change their faith to Islam.

Despite the nationwide alert, Buddhist mobs continue to burn Muslim houses and businesses.

The mob attacks resulted in at least one death.

Security personnel and special forces were deployed to the area and a curfew was declared.

People in Sri Lanka are composed of approximately 70 % Buddhists, 10 % Muslims.

The tension between these communities has escalated over the past year.

As reported by Reuters, the Muslim community has also been targeted for reportedly vandalizing significant Buddhist sites.

As part of the nationwide state of emergency announced on Tuesday, the Sri Lankan government has blocked access to Facebook and communications apps like Viber and WhatsApp.

Social media platforms have been used by Buddhists to incite violence.

A live map shows this part of the country where numerous complaints about no Facebook access were made.

Given the situation in Kandy, blocking access to social media was considered the right thing, according to Aleksey Kuprianov, a senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. He told RT:

“It allowed to minimize the damage because the coordination [of the riots] was carried mainly through the internet.”

Turns out the unrest problem is not just limited to Kandy.

National Front for Good Governance party secretay Najah Mohamed told Al Jazeera that the violence has spread all over the country and hate against Muslims is rampant.

Religious and ethnic violence is not something new to the island.

Following the deadly riots that occured in Aluthgama in June 2014, the government has launched an anti-Muslim campaign. After taking the presidential seat in 2015, President Maithripala Siresena had vowed to investigate crimes committed against the minority group. However, no significant result has been seen.