Colombo: Sri Lankan Justice Minister, also leader of the main Muslim party, on Friday criticised the powerful Defence Secretary, who blamed the Muslim community for being "breeding grounds" for extremism in the mainly Buddhist nation.
"We are extremely disturbed by the specific reference to the Muslim community of Sri Lanka as possible breeding grounds of extremism within the country," Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem said in a statement.
"I would like to publicly contradict the assertion of the Secretary of Defence," Hakeem said in an unusual public outburst against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa had earlier this week said that Sri Lanka`s law enforcement agencies and security forces were concerned about Muslim fundamentalism spreading globally and that some extremist elements have been in transit in Sri Lanka.
"It has been observed that there are some foreign groups that wish to encourage Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves more with the global Muslim community, thereby reducing their integration with the rest of the population."
"The possibility that such extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern," Rajapaksa had said.
Hakeem said that the Muslim community that has been a historical minority of in the country from the time of ancient Sinhala kings fervently hopes to see the State promoting the interests of the Sri Lankan nation, and that it avoids focusing on one group or other.
Prejudice and parochialism are neither a minority monopoly nor a disease that the majority community is immune to, he said.
The intransigence and intolerance of a miniscule minority within the majority community, who under the pretence of being defenders of the teachings of the greatest defender of human dignity and non-violence, hold the entire populace in helpless anxiety while driving the hapless minorities in to servile insularity, Hakeem said.
Rajapaksa is one of Sri Lanka`s most powerful figures, credited with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009.
SLMC, an ally of the government, has been irked in the recent times by a campaign of Muslim hatred carried out by a Buddhist majority extremist group, Bodu Bala Sena.
Seventy percent of Sri Lanka`s 20-million-strong population are Buddhists, while Muslims are the second-largest religious group, making up just under 10 percent.