Thursday 26 September 2019

India builds detention camps for Assam 'foreigners'

There are approximately 1,140 detainees in the six temporary prison camps in Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Jorhat, Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Silchar.

Spread over 10 acres (4 hectares), the Matia camp will have a hospital, an auditorium, a common kitchen and 180 toilets.

"We will see if children detainees can also be provided with educational facilities," Rabin Das, a local engineer overseeing the construction work, told DW.

In 2014, when the Supreme Court of India directed the authorities to begin the process of updating the 1951 version of the NRC, many, including members of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), believed it would provide what is being referred to by the right wing on social media as the "final solution" for Assam's illegal immigration problem, especially from neighboring Bangladesh.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has long opposed illegal immigration to India. In recent years, the party has intensified its campaign for the NRC. But critics say the NRC process reflects the BJP's goal to serve only co-religionists.

Earlier this year, the central government in New Delhi also passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which relaxed conditions for non-Muslim immigrants, including Hindus, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to get Indian citizenship.

On August 1 this year, the Assam government published district-wise data of included and excluded people in the draft NRC and the results were surprising. The highest rate of exclusion was recorded in the Hindu-majority Hojai district (32.99%), whereas Muslim-majority districts like Karimganj, Dhubri and South Salmara, which share their borders with Bangladesh, recorded much lower rates of exclusion.

Those who have been left out of the list have 120 days to appeal to the Foreigners' Tribunals against their NRC exclusion. Over 200 new tribunals are also being set up across the state so that these people can challenge the NRC.

Meanwhile, the authorities want to make sure that the construction work at the Matia detention center won't be delayed.

"Sometimes we have to work 12 hours a day, for which we receive 300 rupees (€3.8, $4.2). It is a tough job, but the contractor has set deadlines for the construction," Noor Ali, a local labourer, told DW.

Ironically, several laborers at the construction site are not on the NRC list and are worried about their future. Many of these people are extremely poor, illiterate and belong to the Muslim community.

"I have been working at the site for over six months. I was very worried when I found out that my name was not on the list, but now I am hoping that everything turns out well. What else can I do?" Qasim Ali, a construction worker, told DW.

Many people excluded from the list don't have the financial means to fight lengthy legal battles. Most of them also don't have the documents that can prove their right to citizenship in the country. They fear they will end up in these under-construction detention centers.


Tuesday 24 September 2019

Pakistan: Kasur child rapes: We are all responsible!

Kasur—Bulley Shah’s once-famous town, is now the country’s notorious melting pot of frequent incidents of child sexual abuse-cum-murders due to the criminal negligence of the Punjab government, police and local community, in-depth interviews of professionals conducted by Pakistan Today revealed.

The area is in the spotlight for the third time following the rapes and murders of three minor boys whose bodies were discovered on Sept 17. One of the bodies was identified as eight-year-old Faizan while the remains of the other two are believed to be of Ali Hussnain and Suleman Akram.

Police sources said that four children aged between eight and 12 years had been missing since June.

According to the details, Faizan had gone missing on Monday, six-year-old Muhammad Imran went missing on June 3, whereas nine-year-old Ali Hussnain and eight-year-old Suleman Akram went missing on August 8 and August 17, respectively.

Sahil, a local NGO working for child rights, says that over 1,304 children have been sexually assaulted in the entire country within the first six months of the current year with Punjab province taking the top spot with 652 children sexually abused in various districts.

It may be mentioned here that Arif Nawaz Khan, the incumbent Punjab inspector general of police (IGP), was Addl IG Operations when the largest child abuse scandal involving 280 victims took place in Kasur district in 2015.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Punjab Additional IGP Operations Inam Ghani said that a collective effort was needed to ensure the prevention of abduction, sexual abuse and murder of children as it is not the sole responsibility of the police department.

When asked why Kasur’s pedophilia problem had grown over time instead of being curbed, Ghani replied that sexual exploitation of children at this rate was a worldwide phenomenon whereas Kasur had simply become a household name because the reported incidents are seen as a continuity of the 2015 incidents and particularly the Zainab rape case.

“Kasur comes in the limelight owing to previous notoriety otherwise even developed countries face this problem,” Ghani insisted.

The senior police officer was of the opinion that the problem exists in every district of the province at the same scale and that Kasur was simply under the spotlight because of public and social media hype.

However, the police officer failed to answer why the district reported the highest number of rape and murder incidents as compared to the rest of the country.

“I don’t have any data regarding this exactly but the problem is everywhere. The Kasur incidents are nothing more than hype,” said Ghani, who has also been appointed as the focal person of the police department.


To a question on whether the police had any DNA record of previously held suspects in connection with the Zainab rape case and if they would match the recently collected evidence with previous data, Ghani revealed that the law enforcement department was devoid of such a facility.

“Of course, the samples would be matched but the police does not have its own DNA bank. Although one should be established, and in fact, NADRA can do it by managing the data of citizens and mentioning it on ID cards,” he said, adding that the other way DNA could be matched with a criminal record is with data available online.

When asked about the role of police and how child sexual abuse could be prevented and restrained in Kasur as well as other areas, Ghani stated that the solution lay within combined effort by the government as well as civil society. “Parents, civil society workers, teachers; everybody needs to take some responsibility,” he added.

Dr Tahira Rubab, a consultant psychiatrist, said the recent incidents of child abuse in Kasur district are evidence that everyone, including the government, civil society and parents do not take this issue seriously.

“They heard Zainab’s killer was hanged in jail and were pacified. It should have been done publically. It would have sent the psychopaths and pedophiles a message and remained in everyone’s mind,” Dr Tahira said.

She alleged that Kasur had turned into a go-to pornography hub after videos of children being sexually exploited were recovered from the area time and again.

“I fear that there are people who are doing it with a business point of view now. The place is a full-fledged pornography centre,” she added while recalling the couple that was arrested over charges of sexually abusing 137 children in Rawalpindi a few months ago.

“They sexually abused girls and recorded the humiliating videos. The question is why? The answer is: for the international black market,” Dr Tahira further added.

However, the psychiatrist too could not point towards the reason why and how Kasur has become hell for children and heaven for rapists and murderers.

“Most psychopaths and pedophiles are people who were sexually abused or involved in such heinous acts in their own childhood,” she said, suggesting that the origins of the problem may go back a long time ago.

Iftikhar Mubarak, a civil society member, said that he personally attended meetings held by the government and also took part in a number of sessions but it was like putting energy into a black hole.

“The government did not implement any of the policies and plans it had made after the injustice that Zainab Ansari suffered,” he said.

“Child policy is lacking not only in Punjab but also in other provinces but it is also true that prevention of child sexual abuse is the whole society’s responsibility. It is a fact that the police failed; however, everybody, especially parents and teachers should work on it together,” the concerned citizen said.

“This subject must be added to school curriculum to make children aware of sexual abuse and molestation,” he concluded.


Thursday 19 September 2019

The woman who dares to run a feminist radio station in Afghanistan

The northern Afghan city of Kunduz is not the kind of place you'd expect to find a radio station run by women, promoting women's rights. But this is precisely what Radio Roshani is, and it's broadcasting today despite several attempts by the Taliban to kill its founder and editor, Sediqa Sherzai.

Radio Roshani broadcasts to a man's world. In most of Afghanistan, tradition has long dictated that women and girls are rarely seen or heard outside the home.

Amazingly, many men actually consider them their property.

In 2008, Sediqa set up Radio Roshani to challenge such attitudes but quickly found herself at loggerheads with the Taliban. Although no longer in government, it has remained a force to be reckoned with in many parts of the country. At first it warned Sediqa to stop broadcasting. Then, in 2009, rockets were fired at the station.

Briefly Sediqa halted broadcasts. She asked the Afghan government for protection, but it became clear that none was forthcoming. So after a few days she went back on air, "because we just couldn't give in to threats".

There has continued to be much local resistance. Men have often told Sediqa that she is leading local women astray, and promoting conflict between men and women in the home.

"These actions are so bad that you deserve to be killed - even more than an American does," they told her.

So it was with particular horror that Sediqa watched Taliban sweep into Kunduz in September 2015, taking complete control of the city. Very soon her phone rang.

"Someone speaking in the Pashtu language asked me where I was, wanting me to give my exact location," says Sediqa, who mostly speaks Dari (an Afghan version of Persian). "I wasn't sure who this person was and was suspicious. After that I turned off my phone and did my best to get away."

This was a wise precaution. After finding the radio station's staff had fled, Taliban fighters destroyed the station's archives, stole its equipment and planted mines in the building.

Even though they were eventually driven out of the city, the station remained closed for two months while explosives experts defused the mines and staff replaced the missing equipment. But death threats against Sediqa and her team have continued ever since.

Radio Roshani promotes womens' rights largely via phone-in programmes. One of the commonest concerns among women in Kunduz, Sediqa Sherzai says, are disputes that sometimes arise between wives in polygamous marriages.

"A lot of men, as soon as they have some money, go for a second or third wife, and so on," Sediqa explains.

According to Islamic convention, this is acceptable in cases where the first wife cannot bear children, she says, but in practice it's mainly done "for sex life purposes".

The husband is supposed to promote justice and harmony among his wives at all times, but Sediqa says they often don't. Most disputes between wives arise because the husband shows favouritism to one over another, she says.

"When the second wife brings more children, she's being treated more favourably than the first. And if the first or second wife are illiterate and the man then gets an educated wife, again she is treated more favourably because she is more educated," Sediqa says.

Often the wives who have the hardest time are those who did not consent to the marriage, having either been sold to the man by their parents or given to him in lieu of a relative's debt.

She adds that it's very rare for the women to support one another, and to apply collective pressure on the husband to behave well.

"There is little understanding or sympathy between them, because of the tensions in the marriage. Some are jealous of other wives because they are closer to the husband, while they [themselves] are more distant. So there is often hardly any co-operation between them."

While Radio Roshani is now the only radio station in Kunduz run by a woman, there are three others that were launched by women, and which still broadcast some programmes for women even though they are now mainly run by men.

Zohal Noori, who works both for Radio Roshani and one of the other stations, says that some men tune in to women's programmes, and that this is helping to change attitudes.

More are now willing to allow their wives to go to work and become active in the local economy, she says.

A growing number are also permitting their wives and daughters to be examined in hospitals, Zohal says, thanks largely to an influx of women doctors. There are still men, though, who regard this as unacceptable.

"They take [their wives and daughters] to clerics, who just tell them to read specified parts of the Koran. These women have no option but to just put up with the situation. Some get very depressed and some have even taken their own lives," Zohal says.

But if in general the situation for women in Kunduz has been improving, there have also been setbacks, partly because of a shaky security situation - underlined by a new major Taliban incursion on 31 August, which led to battles across the city.

"There are lots of assassinations, kidnappings and crime," Zohal says. "Kidnappings are very common at night and things are just getting worse and worse."

As a result, some families that had begun to allow girls to go to school with their brothers are now changing their minds.

It's also feared that talks now being held between US and Taliban representatives, could end up unravelling the progress made on women's rights that Radio Roshani and the other women broadcasters have fought for for so long.

The worry is that in the haste to pull its forces out of Afghanistan, the US will let the Taliban bring back Sharia (Islamic law).

"We're hoping that the peace negotiations will become a real peace," Sediqa says. "And not at the cost of women sitting back at home all day, and that all our achievements are not reversed."


Saturday 14 September 2019

Haaretz editor: ‘for the Palestinians murder is a type of sport, perhaps a substitute for erotica’

This is what the editor of Haaretz’s Culture and Literature supplement, Benny Ziffer, wrote on his Facebook page upon returning from paying a condolence call in the settlement of Ofra:

“En route I looked at the Palestinian villages alongside the Jewish communities, and I thought of how for the Palestinians murder is a type of sport or enjoyment, perhaps a substitute for erotica. From that perspective we will never have anything culturally in common with them.”

And if that weren’t enough, Ziffer also wrote, “Regarding this evil and undignified people living among us, we can only yearn for the land to vomit it out, because it isn’t worthy of this land, which is full of Jewish blood that it has spilled.”

Now, let’s leave alone for a moment the fact that much more Palestinian blood was spilled in this land than Jewish blood in any given year since Zionism came to power in Palestine about 100 years ago. Gideon Levy’s article in Haaretz elaborated on that fallacy in Ziffer’s post, stating that If There’s Such a Thing as a Murderous Culture, Then It Exists in Israel.

I would like to focus on the de-humanisation of an ethnic group sharing the land with the occupying settler group that Ziffer belongs to. As he described in his post, he looked at Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements as he drove through an apartheid road in the West Bank. The difference between the big villas with the red roofs of the settlements on one hand, and the simplicity of the Palestinian village homes on the other hand (I believe he didn’t manage to see the refugee camps, only West Bank villages) is indeed striking. Obviously, it’s a consequence of the Israeli apartheid regime that heavily supports the colonial settlements and heavily oppresses the indigenous people. And that made him think about “how the Palestinians murder is a type of sport or enjoyment, perhaps a substitute for erotica”. He’s got an erotic mind, that’s for sure, but that sickening thought reveals vicious propaganda. This statement of his is the kind of message you would encounter in earlier times colonialist campaigns in Africa and America that led to genocide of the indigenous people.

The next statement is not less striking, as it actually calls for genocide or ethnic cleansing: “Regarding this evil and undignified people living among us, we can only yearn for the land to vomit it out, because it isn’t worthy of this land”. As we know from the past 100 years of history in Palestine, Zionists are big believers in the execution and fulfillment of their aspirations, making things happen rather than yearning. Yearning is what the Jews did during 2,000 years of exile, in the Zionist era dreams are meant to come true, through proactive actions. Zionists know very well that the land won’t vomit the Palestinian people out alone, someone has to give a hand.

In fact, ethnic cleansing of Palestine is taking place on a daily basis, slowly but surely. Israel expropriates Palestinian lands, destroys their “illegal” homes, confiscates their water springs, set their fields on fire, cuts their olive trees and grape vines, humiliates them and makes their lives unbearable. These operations are executed in cooperation of the armed forces and the paramilitary settler gangs that attack Palestinian people and properties under the IDF’s protection. The Gaza strip is under fierce and cruel blockade since 2007, the living conditions there make staying alive a challenge by itself. The situation in the Gaza Strip is clearly a humanitarian disaster.

It should be noted that Ziffer is a journalist, he is intelligent and he is a talented writer, and he is being followed by many Israelis. His post received hundreds of supporting reactions and was shared by dozens of Facebook users. Haaretz newspaper and magazine – where Ziffer is the editor of the Culture and Literature supplement – is considered very liberal and is mostly identified with the Israeli political left.

Another known and popular Israeli media personality, Yaron London, has said on his mainstream TV show: “Arabs are savages … they don’t only hate Jews, they kill their own first and foremost.”  London is identified with the political left as well.

The view of Palestinians as primitives that possess “murderous culture”, that it is practically impossible for them to live “among us” without killing us, and the wishful thinking toward transferring them out of the land – is as old as the state of Israel, if not older. Israel started off with a brutal ethnic cleansing project it called “independence war”, and attempts to transfer Palestinians out of the land controlled by Israel were made numerous times, always with only limited success. As Hagai El-Ad, the director general of B’Tselem described in an article last week, Transfer of Palestinians has always been the Israeli consensus. The de-humanization of the Palestinian people plays an important role in preparing the public opinion for extreme operations of ethnic cleansing. In particular among the political leftwing.

Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister in the early 1970’s, had made a statement that perfectly depicts the Israeli view of Arabs: “We are able to forgive the Arabs for the killing of our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will have peace with the Arabs only when they love their children more than they hate us.”


Thursday 12 September 2019

Palestinian Woman Murdered in Honor Killing After Posting Instagram Video with Fiancé

A 21-year-old Palestinian woman died on Thursday in suspicious circumstances fueling speculation and causing massive outrage among activists and social media users across the Middle East and North Africa. Israa Gharib, a makeup artist from Bethlehem, died in a coma due to head trauma, in what activists and sources close to the victim are saying was a brutal honor killing. The culprits are believed to be her father and brothers.

It all began when Gharib went to meet a potential suitor in a public place and posted a video of the outing on her Instagram page. According to a friend of the victim’s, Gharib’s mother was fully aware of the meeting and the suitor’s sister was also in attendance.

According to sources online, Gharib’s cousin then showed the video to the victim’s father and brothers, allegedly urging them to act to prevent scandal and accusing Israa of dishonoring herself and bringing shame to the family by being seen in the company of a man outside the bonds of marriage.

Gharib’s friend claims that upon seeing the video, her brothers, Bahaa an Ihab, and brother-in-law, Sheikh Mohamed El Safy, began beating and torturing her, and proceeded to terminate the engagement. Other sources claim she fell from the 2nd floor while attempting to flee the brutal assault. She was later hospitalized due to a fractured spine.

Gharib’s father, brothers, and brother-in-law followed her to the hospital, her friend alleges, and resumed the beating, telling hospital staff they were performing an exorcism on the victim whom they believed was possessed by a demon. A harrowing audio recording of the assault was leaked by one of the nurses at the hospital that purportedly features Gharib’s repeated horrified screams.

She was then released from the hospital, after which she returned home, where she allegedly suffered a head injury at the hands of her brother, Ihab, a resident of Canada. Eye witnesses say he had threatened to kill her earlier that day, prompting some on social media to call on the Canadian government to take legal action against him. Gharib went into a coma, before her heart stopped.

In a Facebook statement, the victim’s family denied any wrongdoing, claiming she suffered mental and psychological disorders that led to her fall from the 2nd floor of their Bethlehem house.

Gharib’s story is now one of the top trending topics on social media, with thousands of users and activists calling for social, political, and legal reforms to protect women from violence in Palestine, including Palestinian human rights organization Adalah, which issued a statement calling the alleged murder “a heinous killing.”

Feminist blogger Fadumo Adan also weighed in, telling The New Arab, “as a survivor of an honor killing, Israa’s story triggered a deeply embedded fear of mine. …Honor killings will never be justifiable. We shouldn’t have to mitigate the risk of honor killings by limiting our own personal freedom, autonomy and self-determination.”

The Bethlehem prosecution office is currently investigating the murder and has ordered an autopsy, reports Youm7.

Despite a 2018 amendment to article 99 of the Palestinian penal code, which used to allow judges to reduce sentences for perpetrators of honor killings, reports show that the practice is on the rise in the West Bank, Gaza, and among Israel’s Palestinian community.


Tuesday 10 September 2019

How White Nationalists Have Been Inspired by the Genocide of Muslims in Bosnia

Nearly two decades after the war ended, Bosnia is still struggling to emerge from the vortex of hatred that destroyed the country during the 1990s. Yet what may be even more alarming is that outside of Bosnia, the memory of the genocide committed against its Muslims has become a source of inspiration for the global far right. The shooter who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand this March wrote the names of Serbian nationalist leaders on the rifle he used to carry out the massacres. During his livestream of the attacks, he played a jaunty song performed by Bosnian Serb soldiers during the war, nicknamed “Remove Kebab,” that has become popular among the online “alt-right.” The Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people during a 2011 shooting rampage, reportedly also showed a “strange obsession” with the genocide in Bosnia, heaping praise on wartime Serb leaders in a manifesto he wrote before his attacks. A domestic terrorist in Pennsylvania who killed a state trooper in 2014 was similarly infatuated with the wartime Bosnian Serb military, posing images of himself on social media in a uniform from the notorious Drina Wolves unit. On websites like 4chan that are helping to breed a new culture of racial hatred and glorification of violence, it’s not hard to find the Bosnian genocide favorably discussed. These new online connections are also helping to foster real-world links between the Western far right and its Balkan counterparts.

In this photograph taken on December 9, 2017, a Serbian nationalist holds a flag with an image of Bosnian Serb convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, as he prepares to enter St. Sava Church in Belgrade, to attend prayers for the former Bosnian Serbian commander.Ratko Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief, was given a life sentence on November 22, by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, for genocide during the country's inter-ethnic war in the 1990s.

Rise of Europe’s Far Right Emboldens Serb Extremists and Threatens a Fragile Peace in Bosnia
In the ethnically cleansed areas of Bosnia, where the genocide occurred, today the perpetrators seem to have narrowed their responses to either ignoring what happened or celebrating it. In addition to the memorial on the hill above Višegrad, in the town center a bronze statue stands in honor of local military veterans, several of whom have been convicted of war crimes at The Hague. Aside from a few small plaques put up by victims’ groups in neighborhoods where mass killings happened, there is no recognition of the massacres — and those plaques have been placed on the upper floors of buildings to keep them out of reach after repeated vandalism. A few years ago, the local municipality even sandblasted the word “genocide” off a memorial stone erected by victims’ families in the town’s Muslim graveyard. When I visited that cemetery this summer, the word had still been obliterated from the monument — though someone had defiantly written it back in with black marker.

In order to understand the ideology of the emerging far right — obsessed with demographics and starry-eyed over the Bosnian genocide — it’s important to look at what actually happened in Bosnia. The grim success of the genocide in cleansing much of Bosnia should give a hint as to why it has become an inspiration. Around 100,000 people are believed to have been killed during the Bosnian war. The majority of them were Muslims. The cleansing of places like Višegrad, Fo?a, Srebrenica, Prijedor, and Zvornik was not a war between two equal and opposing forces. It was a campaign of murder and cruelty against a defenseless people, waged in the name of demographics and ethnic purity. It mixed equal parts racism and misogyny. The level of sexual violence against Bosnian Muslim women was so targeted and systematic — educated women were singled out for the worst treatment — that it led to rape being recognized for the first time as a weapon of war under international law.


Thursday 5 September 2019

NEWS/INDIA Half of India police feel Muslims more likely to commit crimes

A new study says police in India display "significant bias against Muslims", with half of the police personnel interviewed saying they feel Muslims are "naturally prone towards committing crimes".

The report, which surveyed 12,000 police personnel in 21 Indian states, also found one in three police staff felt mob violence in cases of cow slaughter was "natural".

The findings, published on Tuesday, come amid concern from the United Nations and rights groups over an increase in harassment of and violence against India's Muslim minority after the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assumed power in 2014.

Since then, dozens of people, mostly Muslims, have been killed by vigilante mobs on allegations of eating beef or slaughtering cows - an animal considered sacred in Hinduism. Modi has repeatedly said authorities should punish vigilantes who commit violence in the name of cow protection, but his critics allege the government has not done enough to prosecute those accused of killings.

Tuesday's study, titled The Status of Policing in India Report: Police Adequacy and Working Conditions, found 14 percent of police surveyed believed Muslims were "very much likely" to be prone to committing crimes, while 36 percent felt members of the faith were "some-what likely" to do so.

"Thirty-five percent personnel feel (to a large extent and somewhat combined) that it is natural for a mob to punish the culprit in case of cow slaughter," it added.

"Some of the findings were very surprising," said Manjesh Rana, one of the researchers on the year-long survey, because "we believe that this could be the perception of the people but not the perception of the police."

But he added: "We can't really establish that the prejudices they have, whether it's affecting their work or not but there are always these chances."

The study also found 60 percent of those surveyed believed migrants from other states were more likely to commit crimes. Separately, more than half felt complaints of gender-based violence were false.

The researchers described the survey as the first of its kind in India, covering police perceptions on a range of issues, including working conditions, resources and obstacles to investigating crimes.

Nearly a third of respondents said pressure from politicians was the main obstacle to investigating crimes, while an overwhelming majority of 72 percent said they encountered "political pressure" in probes involving influential people.

The study also found more than a third of police personnel surveyed favoured handing out "a small punishment" for minor offences than a legal trial, while one out of five felt "killing dangerous criminals is better than a legal trial".

It added: "Four out of five personnel believe that there is nothing wrong in the police beating up criminals to extract confessions."


Tuesday 3 September 2019

Sri Lanka urged to tackle 'hate propaganda' against Muslims

A United Nations human rights expert has called on Sri Lanka to take urgent action on "hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities" following a spate of deadly attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued the call on Monday at the end of a 12-day mission to the Buddhist-majority country in the Indian Ocean.

He said there was a "serious deficit of trust among ethnoreligious communities" in the wake of the ISIL-claimed attacks in April.

More than 250 people were killed in the bombings, the deadliest since the end of a 26-year-civil war against Tamil separatist fighters in 2009.

"While the government promptly brought the situation more or less under control after the bomb blasts, many religious communities remain very concerned about their security because of incitement to hatred and violence by some religious extremists," Shaheed said in a statement.

The suicide assaults led to anti-Muslim riots in May, which were partly blamed on Buddhist groups.

There was also a spike in reports of hate speech, with a senior Buddhist monk saying in June Muslims should be stoned in one case. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana made the comment after repeating unsubstantiated claims that a Muslim doctor had sterilised thousands of Buddhist women.

"The government must take action against the hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities that is being spread through unregulated media and is instigating ethnoreligious tension for political gain," said Shaheed.

Failure to do so "will allow extremism to escalate and pose serious challenges to peace-building," he added.

Sri Lanka's population of about 22 million is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions. Sinhalese speaking Buddhists make up more than 70 percent, while Tamils account for 15 percent.

Muslims are the second-largest minority, comprising about 10 percent of the population.

There has been an increase in attacks against the community since the civil war's end, including major bouts of violence in 2013 and 2018. Buddhist groups - some led by monks - were blamed for the unrest.

But many in the government saw the unrest as "sporadic small incidents", he said, warning they must not be treated as such.

"The underlying unease and hostility existed long before the Easter attacks and subsequent violence," he said.

He highlighted a range of factors for the "simmering" tensions. including the politicisation of religion, segregated education based on ethnoreligious identity, as well as impunity for previous religiously motivated attacks.

Failure to hold perpetrators to account for previous violence has "strengthened the anti-Muslim groups", he said, adding: "It is time for Sri Lanka to vigorously adopt measures to protect the rights of all people and to hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of their ethnoreligious background."

He urged the Sri Lankan authorities to "make efforts to dismantle the networks of hate" and "speak out against hateful narratives".

He also called for urgent reforms to the education system "to foster inclusive identities".

There was no immediate comment from the government on Shaheed's report.

The expert is expected to submit his detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020.