Clerics of a Sufi sect of Islam in Kattankudy, a large Muslim town near Batticaloa riven by religious clashes which started four days ago, said Wednesday that more than six hundred of their followers were forcibly converted to orthodoxy under threat of violence and death. Sri Lanka army troops were also deployed in the troubled town along with special riot Police to prevent further violence.
More than two hundred Muslim families that belong to the Sufi sect led by the cleric Abdur Rauf Mowlavi sought refuge in Araiyampathy, a Tamil village next to Kattankudy Tuesday night, fearing violent attacks by armed orthodox Islamic groups.
Some adherents of the Sufi sect alleged that a Muslim politician who was close ally of President Kumaratunga had instigated armed extremists against them.
“Our people were made to give up their faith at gun point”, a spokesman for the Sufis said.
An orthodox cleric denied the charge. He said that the followers of Rauf Mowlavi voluntarily came over to accept orthodoxy.
Meanwhile, government officials and Police convened two separate peace meetings between the Sufis and the orthodox Ulama board members.
“They have agreed to a truce tentatively. It is difficult to dispel fear and suspicion overnight”, a Police officer said.
A large number of families that follow the teachings of the pantheistic Sufi sect led by Abdur Rauf Mowlavi are on protest fast in their main mosque premises. Sri Lanka army troops and special motorbike commandos provided security to the Sufi mosque compound Wednesday.
On Sunday armed orthodox Islamic groups also attacked another Sufi sect in Kattankudy led by the charismatic cleric called Payilvaan.