- "Almost every Muslim has begun to own a sense of shame and guilt as they feel members of other communities suspect them "
- "Muslims have always been very careful not to provoke, threaten or challenge other communities "
As the case with the Christians in Sri Lanka has been, the two million Muslims in the country too have not been able to come to terms with the situation after the barbaric terrorist attacks on innocent men, women and children at three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.
A community that had coexisted with others while being loyal to the country for over a millennium has become a suspected lot overnight. This is the plight of Sri Lankan Muslims after it was revealed that it was a group of people of their faith that had launched the suicide bombings on six places – Kochchikade St. Anthony’s Church, Katuwapitiya St. Sebastian’s Church, Batticaloa Zion Church, Shangri-La Hotel, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Hotel on April 21 -- brutally killing hundreds of people.
Almost every Muslim has begun to own a sense of shame and guilt as they feel members of other communities – especially their friends and neighbours – suspect them; a feeling that was sensed by the Tamil community some ten years ago when the dreaded LTTE exploded bombs in trains, buses and places of worship. The situation has become worse as this sense of shame is ‘always’ coupled with the fear of retaliation by the affected community.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and people of that country had very professionally prevented the Muslims around the world from presuming the terrorist attack on An-Noor Mosque in Christchurch on March 15 was a Christian attack, with their genuine and humane approach. However, it would be difficult to rub out the Muslim colouring on the Easter Sunday massacres where more than 350 people were killed apart from some 500 people being injured.
Muslims in Sri Lanka are dumbfounded on Sunday to realise such a dreaded group had been among them. They – as others in the country knew after the attacks on Buddha statues in Mawanella last December that there was a nutty group within their ranks that apparently think followers of other faiths could be distanced from their religions by violent means – are in such a shock that they are struggling to admit there had been bloodthirsty men among them.
Religious extremism and fanatic trends have been creeping into the ranks of Sri Lankan Muslims during the past decade which was manifested by the internecine clashes in places like Kattankudy and Beruwala. They had been pure ideological clashes which had nothing to do with politics or other faiths. Hence, it was perceived as something that could disturb peace in certain areas and not national security.
" New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and people of that country had very professionally prevented the Muslims around the world from presuming the terrorist attack on An-Noor Mosque in Christchurch on March 15 was a Christian attack "
Many non-Muslims attempted to find this trend in the Abaya -- the traditional Arabic female attire now worn by most Muslim women in this country. Unlike religious extremism which was a recent phenomenon, the Arabic attires such as Abaya and the face veil worn by Muslim women are very old traditions and thus Muslims had always been denying this claim. Even after the Easter Sunday horror, they do not see any link between the Abaya or face veil and the killing of innocent people.
Muslims in Sri Lanka did not expect and there was no sign until last December that the extremism among them would overflow towards other communities. Despite there being a plethora of controversies among Sri Lankan Muslim organisations over religious issues and sometimes in line with the conflicts between various countries in the Middle East, the cradle of Islam, they never preached violence. Hence, the Muslim community was in utter chaos and in a pathetic situation during the violence against them in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Welipenna in 2004 as well as in Ampara and various places in the Kandy District last year. They had always been very careful not to provoke, threaten or challenge other communities.
And interestingly, though some of the organisations carried identical tags with them as those carried by controversial organisations in other countries such as Tawheed Jamaat in Tamil Nadu and Jama’athe Islami in Bangladesh which have been accused of violence, the Sri Lankan Muslim organisations have been carrying out educational efforts and social services. They never believed in or wanted to explain who they were to other communities by way of challenging them, even after the malicious propaganda against them in early last decade and in the recent past. Instead, there have been efforts by Muslim organisations and individuals to translate Islamic literature to the Sinhala language.
However, it is now apparent that an undercurrent of the preaching of violence has grown beneath the community catching it off guard somewhat in last December and to their horror last Sunday. It has been revealed that a little known group called National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) has carried out the horrendous crime on Easter Sunday with the backing of the dreaded Middle Eastern terrorist outfit, the IS (Interestingly, this group is now added to the already-known three Tawheed Jamaats in the country – The All Ceylon Tawheed Jamaat, Ceylon Tawheed Jamaat and the United Tawheed Jamaat). Nevertheless, the thus far unanswered question which sometimes would never be answered and baffles the Muslims in particular and the whole world in general, is what prompted this fanatic group to kill such a large number of innocent men, women and children.
"Religious extremism and fanatic trends have been creeping into the ranks of Sri Lankan Muslims during the past decade which was manifested by the internecine clashes in places like Kattankudy and Beruwala"
There is only one point which everybody can agree upon with respect to these attacks -- they targeted the Christians. But, why? Those who had understood Islam through the propaganda by the Western media and the anti-Muslim groups might develop a theory of their own, in line with what they had already grasped as Islam. However, Muslims who knew that many non-Muslim communities had lived in Arabia during the rule of their prophet who had interacted with those communities while even personally having financial transactions with them until his demise, find it difficult to comprehend the reason for the killing of people just because they are Christians.
Another question that is being posted after it was revealed that the intelligence reports had clearly warned the authorities about the crime, with details of the perpetrators, the nature of the crime and their possible targets is why they ignored those reports. This too might never be answered (going by the nature of Sri Lankan politics). This is a strange country where there is nobody to take responsibility when hundreds of people had been brutally killed by terrorists even after authorities having had prior knowledge about the impending attacks.