Authorities in Sri Lanka have detained a female British tourist for having a Buddha tattoo on her right arm and ordered her deportation, police said on Tuesday.
The unidentified woman was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo on Monday and appeared before a magistrate, who ordered her deportation, police said in a statement.
The statement said she had an image of the Buddha seated on a lotus flower tattooed on her right arm.
“She was taken before the Negombo magistrate, who ordered her to be detained prior to deportation,” it said, adding that she was arrested shortly after her arrival on a flight from neighbouring India.
The government of Mahinda Rajapakse has become increasingly sensitive to perceived threats to Buddhism, the majority religion on the Island, since the end of the country’s ethnic conflict in 2009.
Buddhist iconography, including large statues, have appeared at major venues – including the international airport – and beside major roads and intersections throughout the country.
According to reports, the Rajapakse administration has also supported the rise of a militant Buddhist political party, the “Bodu Bala Sena” which has carried out numerous attacks on mosques, churches and liquor stores in the country.
In March 2013, authorities barred another Briton – Antony Ratcliffe from Nottingham – from entering the island for showing “disrespect” to Buddhism by having a Buddha tattooed on his arm.
And in August 2012, three French tourists were sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for five years, for kissing a Buddha statue in what the authorities considered was a sign of disrespect.