A message viral on social media claims Muslims in Sri Lanka converted to Hinduism after demolishing mosques across the country. “श्री लंका में मुसलमान अपने ही हाथो से तोड़ रहे हैं मस्जिद और अपना रहे हैं हिन्दू धर्म. मुस्लिम बोलते हैं कि हमें अब इस्लाम धर्म की घिनौनी और नफ़रत से भरी असलियत समझ आ गयी (Muslims in Sri Lanka are demolishing mosques with their hands and embracing Hinduism. Muslims are saying that they have understood the abominable and hateful face of Islam.)” – reads the message.
The claim has been propagated with the help of two photographs showing people wearing skull caps demolishing a structure.
It has also been circulated by a few Twitter users.
Why was the mosque demolished?
Reverse-searching the images led us to a May 29, 2019 article in Sri Lankan news website Daily Mirror.
“A mosque used by the National Thawheed Jama’at (NTJ) at Madatugama in Kekirawa was yesterday demolished by the area Muslims and devotees of the main mosque,” per the report. “Trustee of the main mosque M H M Akbar Khan said the mosque used by the NTJ was built with the funds of an organization based in a foreign country,” it continued.
NTJ is the Sri Lankan Islamist extremist group which was implicated in the 2019 Easter Bombings where over 250 people were killed in coordinated attacks.
Daily Mirror also uploaded a video of the incident.
Apart from the mosque, residents also destroyed a plaque with Arabic inscriptions, per a report by local media outlet Hiru News.
A video of the demolition uploaded by Sri Lankan news channel Ada Derana shows people demolishing a blue coloured structure with sledgehammers.
Muslims demolish NTJ mosque in Kekirawa
කැකිරාවේ මුස්ලිම් ජනතාව තව්හිත් ජමාත් පල්ලියක් කඩා දමයි
Posted by Ada Derana on Thursday, 30 May 2019
Alt News contacted a Sinhalese translator who said that the people in the video claim that the mosque was constructed using funds from Arab countries. “Even the words on the board [plaque] are Arabic,” said one of the residents. Speaking to Ada Derana, the demolishers added that they have their own traditional place of worship [main mosque] and disapproved of “unnecessary Arab influence” on mosques.
Did religious conversions take place?
AFP had earlier fact-checked the video when it was viral weeks after April’s easter bombings. The news organisation spoke to Kekirawa Police officer-in-charge Thilak Bandara Ganegoda regarding viral claims suggesting Muslims converted to Hinduism. The officer informed, “No religious conversions took place. The land was previously allocated to construct a children’s library and was handed over to its rightful owner.”
Akbar Khan had led the movement to tear down the building, according to AFP. “It was not demolished because of any link between that building and the NTJ or because any religious conversion took place,” he said. Khan echoed the statements of residents earlier mentioned in this report. He told Hiru News that the mosque was taken down because it was built using foreign funds. This was also tweeted by the deputy editor of Daily Mirror.
A mosque used by National Thawheed Jama’at at Madatugama in Kekirawa was today demolished by the area Muslims & devotees of the main mosque.Trustee of the main mosque Akbar Khan said the mosque used by the NTJ was built with the funds of an organization based in a foreign country pic.twitter.com/jhmzT0mqpM
— Sunil Jayasiri (@sjayasiri) May 29, 2019
The incident was also reported by other Sri Lankan media outlets. None of the articles mentions “religious conversion”. Social media claims, therefore, stand false.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.