A British tourist is "shocked and upset" after being deported from Sri Lanka for displaying a Buddha tattoo on his arm, he says.
Antony Ratcliffe, 42, from Nottingham, was turned back at Colombo's main airport on Friday for allegedly showing a lack of respect for Buddhism.
The authorities are tough on perceived insults to Buddhism - the religion of the island's majority ethnic Sinhalese.
But Mr Ratcliffe says the "inoffensive" body art was meant as a tribute.
The Briton, a former infection control officer for the ambulance service and a keen amateur photographer, was stopped as he tried to leave Bandaranaike International Airport during a 12-hour stop-over en route from London to Malaysia.
Despite having a valid two-day tourist visa, Mr Ratcliffe said he was frog marched to a detention area after immigration officials spotted the Buddha's head tattoo poking out from the sleeve of his T-shirt.
"As soon as he saw it the chief officer went crazy. You could see it on his face, he looked really angry and said I would have to go back to London," Mr Ratcliffe told the BBC.
An unnamed immigration official told a local newspaper that when questioned about the tattoo, Mr Ratcliffe had spoken "very disrespectfully" about Buddhism.
But the Briton says he remained calm throughout the proceedings.
"They took my passport and held me there for an hour and a half. All the time they were bringing people in to look at my arm, and they were shaking their heads.
"I was explaining my case, pleading basically, and the chief officer just told me to 'shut up, shut up' and he refused to talk to me."
"I like the artwork in tattoos obviously and, due to my belief in Buddhist philosophy which I have followed for many years, I thought a quality tattoo of the Buddha was rather apt.
"It wasn't something I took lightly or did on the spur of the moment."
Eventually, Mr Ratcliffe was allowed to continue his journey to Kuala Lumpur, but faced further questioning when he landed.
"The whole experience has been a shock - it has been upsetting and a waste of my time. I'm not taking it further, but when I saw they had accused me of speaking disrespectfully about Buddhism, I had to put my side of the story", he said.
More than 100,000 British citizens visited Sri Lanka in 2012, accounting for 10% of the total number of tourists. The UK is also the country's second-largest trading partner after India.
Last year, three French tourists were given suspended prison sentences for taking photographs that showed them pretending to kiss a statue of Buddha at a temple.
In 2010, the American R&B star Akon was refused a visa after protests over one of his music videos, which featured scantily-clad women dancing in front of a statue of Buddha.
The UK foreign office offers the following caution for travellers to Sri Lanka: "The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for this."
It also advises that travellers "don't pose for photographs by standing in front of a statue of Buddha".(BBC)
KD Sunday, 17 March 2013 10:48
i'd rather have it in a human's arm than have a statue out side where its open for the elements including birds to poo on. At least this man would not let the picture get dirty as its his own body.
Reply : 44 264
Smash Sunday, 17 March 2013 11:12
good lessen, if any one insult the other's religious, God will insult our religious like this. BBS this is over to you....
Reply : 239 86
Ranjitdea Sunday, 17 March 2013 11:16
Sorry Mr Ratcliff, immigration officers do not speak or understand English.
Reply : 46 321
ram Sunday, 17 March 2013 11:22
I cry for my country now... we are like the Taliban.
Reply : 55 344
Yuri Sunday, 17 March 2013 12:15
Will they refund the 25$ Visa Robbery
Reply : 26 180
Anjalie U.K Sunday, 17 March 2013 16:09
Arm is too good for this tattoo....I know where I an going to have my next budah statue........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reply : 85 104
Thomas RangerThomas Monday, 18 March 2013 03:27
If this guy had worn a long sleeved shirt this would not have happened. Serves him right for being an exhibitionist.
Reply : 39 9
Buwa Monday, 18 March 2013 09:30
award for the most retarded comment of the week. Congratulations
Reply : 1 12
TERRENCE DE SILVA Monday, 18 March 2013 03:28
HAVE YOU NOT SEEN CRUXIFIXES, PICTURES OF JESUS, ST. MARY TATOOS ON PEOPLES BODIES , IN YOU LIVES BEFORE?
Reply : 5 42
Action Monday, 18 March 2013 04:08
Please take action putting statues, Near, Around and on the places, collecting garbage.
This is done to stop the garbage, but it an insult.
Reply : 1 17
LK Monday, 18 March 2013 04:21
No wonder if the jokers at immigration want do a full nude body check to see any tattoos in private part too!!!!
If this guy not love Buddha he will not have that on the his arm.
What a miracle of asia we are turning into be!!!! . we are really becoming laughingstock of world , !!!
Reply : 3 46
Jim Kuru Monday, 18 March 2013 04:29
Anjalie UK. pls. explain where are you going to have the tatoo.crazi Reply.
Reply : 9 16
Gamarala Monday, 18 March 2013 05:59
Every time I get back from a trip abroad, these very same officers usually ask; why did you go abroad? for what ?. I just smile and say holiday. What I really feel like saying is 'Thoge arrchita haal garanda giye yakko. In most countries the immigration officers smile and say " have a good holiday" or "have a good visit" or "Welcome back". But none of that in entering Sri Lanka. They all look so constipated.
Reply : 5 42
Kalubanda Monday, 18 March 2013 11:27
The Greatest Human Being that trod this earth - Gauthama Buddha, preached Tolerance.
This is an example of Sri Lankan 'Tolerance".
Please dont act like Frogs in a well.
Reply : 2 9
Eagle Eyes Monday, 18 March 2013 13:29
This will reflect badly on our tourist industry
Reply : 2 4
Rosh Tuesday, 19 March 2013 09:19
We won't die without tourists. Great that you showed we all don't bow down to white skin unlike many here.
Reply : 0 0
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