Naomi Coleman was arrested and deported because of her choice of tattoo.

British tourist Naomi Coleman was arrested in Sri Lanka for “hurting others’ religious feelings.” What were the specifics? Hate speech? Assault at religious churches and temples? No, Ms. Coleman was arrested for a tattoo on her arm of Buddha.

Currently being held in an immigration detention camp while she awaits deportation, the mental health nurse told the media there were initially no problems when she arrived.

I got to the airport in Sri Lanka. It was fine. They stamped my passport. There was no problem. It was just when I was taking my suitcases out, one of the taxi men at the stand stopped me and said, ‘Oh, this is a big problem in Sri Lanka, you’ve got a Buddha tattoo.

Sri Lanka is particularly sensitive about images of the Buddha, and Coleman told police and officials she is a practicing Buddhist. Despite having an itinerary scheduled for other countries, the officials in Sri Lanka are making sure Coleman is headed back to her home country, but not before spending a night in jail.

The 37-year-old also felt scammed out of 5,000 rupees ($38 USD) when she was told to hire an attorney, who she then never met with.

Sri Lanka takes strict actions again insults, or perceived insults, against Buddhism. Two years ago, three French tourists were given prison sentences for kissing a stature of a Buddha.


Martin Ackerman is a freelance writer and current editor originally from Staten Island, NY. His university schooling focused on English education and Japanese. He has a (not so secret) passion for art history and political science. When he isn't writing or editing you can find him at sci-tech conventions, building the latest LEGO city or pampering his cat, Tea. You can follow him on Twitter @MarMackerman.