Islamic missionaries told to declare nature of their visit

Islamic missionaries visiting Sri Lanka for preaching have been advised to declare the purpose of their visit when applying for visas, Immigration and Emigration Controller Chulananda Perera said yesterday.
He said the directive was given after representations were made by Islamic groups following the order for 161 Islamic missionaries to leave the country as they were violating visa procedures.

The Sunday Times last week reported that 161 Islamic missionaries had been ordered to leave the country because of all of them had obtained tourist visas, but were involved in preaching in various parts of the country. They included missionaries from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Britain, Yemen, Israel, Jordan and Iran.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, an umbrella organisation representing more than 100 groups, and a representative of the Tabligh Jamat group last Monday met the Immigration Controller. Also in attendance were representatives from the Muslim Cultural Affairs Department and officials form the Religious Affairs and Defence Ministries.

“They explained that the Tabligh Jamat is an organisation incorporated by act of Parliament. Our advice was that persons obtaining visas should declare the purpose of the visit,” Mr. Perera said.Meanwhile, of the 161 persons who were told to leave the country, 127 have already left.

He said the remaining 34 had been advised to declare their travel itinerary to ensure that there was no misunderstanding. “They can remain in the country until their visas expire,” he said.

Minister A.H.M. Fowzie defended the visit of the Islamic missionaries saying they had been visiting the country since 1985. “They have never provoked violence and were not spreading extremism. They are a spiritual group,” he said.

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