A group of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka led a crowd that demolished a Muslim shrine last week, the BBC has learned.
This incident took place on Saturday in Anuradhapura, an ancient Buddhist city and Unesco world heritage site.
The monk who led the group told the BBC he did it because the shrine was on land that was given to Sinhalese Buddhists 2,000 years ago.
But a prominent Muslim in the area said he was very sad and the sentiment was shared by many Sinhalese too.
A Sri Lankan news website showed photographs of a crowd including monks apparently reducing a small structure to a pile of rubble.
The mob waved Buddhist flags and – in one picture – burnt a green Muslim flag.
There have been no other reports of what happened.
But the BBC has spoken to the monk, Amatha Dhamma Thero, who admits masterminding the demolition of the Muslim shrine.
He said he arranged a gathering of 100 or so monks, including some from other Asian countries, to take action because – he alleged – local Muslims were trying to convert the shrine into a mosque despite new constructions being illegal on this site with its many Buddhist temples.
He said local government officials arrived and said they would remove the shrine within three days, but the crowd said “we cannot wait” and proceeded to tear down the structure.
The demolition has been denounced by a local senior Muslim and a local Sinhalese politician.
The Muslim, Abdul Razack, denied that a mosque was planned and said the demolished shrine was about 300 years old and had attracted visitors of other faiths too.
He said local Muslims and Buddhists alike were concerned at what happened but Muslims had avoided the site on Saturday, fearing sectarian disharmony.
The politician, Aruna Dissanayake, said the government should act against those who had attacked the shrine.
A minority was trying to create sectarian problems in a place where most Muslims and Sinhalese Buddhists co-existed well, he added.
Most of Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese are Buddhist, and Muslims are regarded as a separate ethnic group.
In a recent newspaper column, a veteran Muslim journalist said there was a growing fear among his community that some people were running a campaign to incite the Sinhalese against them, including through Sinhalese websites and print media courtesy: BBC