For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By ANIQA HAIDER
A BAHRAIN resident has been arrested in Sri Lanka after converting to Islam and writing two books in Sinhalese allegedly offensive to the spiritual leader of Buddhism.
Sarah Malanie Perera, 38, was detained in the capital Colombo on Saturday as she was due to leave her homeland after a three-month holiday.
Discover Islam has now issued an international appeal to human rights groups to help secure her release, after being contacted by one of her sisters.
Relatives in Bahrain also fear she may not be allowed to return here as her residence permit expires today.
Ms Perera came to Manama in 1985 to assist her elder sister Mariam, who owned a gifts and flowers shop called Madhuri in The Palace Hotel, Adliya.
She worked there for two years before staying at home to care her sick old mother Aisha.
Ms Perera later worked as an assistant accountant for the US Navy, before becoming a teacher at the Child Development Centre, Juffair.
Born and brought up in a Buddhist family, she embraced Islam in 1999 after studying religion at Discover Islam.
Her father Norbet Perera, mother Soma and sisters Padma, Rasa, Padmani and Malanie, later also converted to Islam at separate times.
They are now called Mohammed, Aisha, Fatima, Raihana, Fowzia and Sarah respectively.
“Ever since she (Sarah) embraced Islam, she was compiling a book on Islam and comparative religion,” said her sister Mariam yesterday.
“In September 2009 she has completed her compilation.
“She has printed it into two beautiful books entitled From Darkness to Light and Questions and Answers.
“During her visit to Sri Lanka, she printed the books and was due to come back to Bahrain on Saturday.
“She was sending some copies of the books through cargo and the owner of the cargo office, who happened to be linked with an extremist racist organisation called Helaurumaya, contacted the police claiming the book was offensive to Lord Buddha.”
Mariam claimed the group forced the police to detain her sister beyond the 24-hour limit before a case must be transferred to the courts.
“Sarah went home after taking three months holiday to finish a property issue, as my father died six years ago and no one was there to care for it,” she said.
“As we all are married and have families plus jobs, it was impossible to go back earlier and thought she would finalise the matter during her vacation.
“But we didn’t know she would be arrested for writing the book.”
A Discover Islam official said the arrest of Ms Perera was unfair and demanded Bahrain’s authorities take action to ensure her quick release.
“We want all the international authorities and human rights organisations to help sister Sarah,” they said.
Relatives say Ms Perera’s books were not abusive to Lord Buddha and merely explained the original teachings of Buddha according to the Buddhist scriptures.
They said she wrote it to explain why she chose to convert to Islam and it was an attempt to bring people of all faiths closer by recognising their similarities.
Ms Perera is being held in Mirihana Police Station, Colombo, while investigations continue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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