20 July, 2019

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Sri Lanka’s Easter Tragedy Through The Eyes Of Dissent

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Investigations have identified the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a Wahabi faction from Kattankudy, near Batticaloa as the perpetrators of Sri Lanka’s Easter terror attacks. The story of the advance of Wahabi terror within the Muslim community intermeshes with the transformation of the urbane Tamil nationalism of the educated middle class demanding language and territorial rights, an issue on which the Muslims in the Eastern Province shared common aspirations. In both instances, the infliction of communal violence (against the Muslims particularly in 2014 and 2018) with casual impunity, played an important role in the transformation,

Once the LTTE asserted sole dominance of the Tamil struggle through ruthless terror, the democratic aspirations of the early Tamil militancy drawn from other liberation struggles, died; and with it the prospect of resolving local differences with Muslims by democratic means. The LTTE’s approach to Muslims through force and arrogance culminated in its Kattankudy mosque and the Eravur massacres in August 1990.

The Government quickly set up the Muslim home guards, which became a paramilitary arm of the Defence Ministry and a nuisance to local Muslim civilians. The LTTE’s ruthlessness and success, albeit transient, was a model not lost on its detractors. Its practice of branding opponents traitors as the harbinger of coming menace, matched well the progress of Wahabi influence in Muslim areas from the 1980s. 

In Tamil society, its nationalist politicians found in the militant youth extra-legal means to secure parliamentary seats, as exemplified in the 1975 murder of Alfred Duraiappa. Similarly the moderate Muslim politicians and the Wahhabi religious elders came to depend on thuggery by their youthful followers to secure their places in parliament or to forcibly take over mosques of the traditional Sufi sects. There was no escape from the sinews of such unholy dependence.

These are conditions under which dissent is crushed and dishonoured. We begin our inquiry from the standpoint of Muslim women who have challenged the advance of Wahabism on the ground. Focussing on global terror, makes us lose sight of local responsibility.

As seen from the Ground

Sabina (not her real name), a Muslim who worked tirelessly for Tamil victims of our long drawn conflict, told me of their apprehension of imminent havoc: “We saw the monster growing before our eyes. Many moderate Muslims complained to the authorities, as several leaders in Kattankudy did last August and again in February. We shared on February 10th a video clip of Zahran, in which he called for the killing of oppressors of Muslims, through Whatsapp with several individuals linked to the government and the opposition. Nothing happened. We learnt that when a person at the Prime Minister’s office apprised a trusted moderate Muslim leader of this video, the latter dismissed it as nothing very serious. That was the end of it. She also said that she sent this video to Facebook and she understood that the FB in turn has informed the Sri Lankan authorities. 

On the proliferation of hate through narrow religion, Sabina said that in January 2018 in the run up to the 2018 local council elections, Moulavi Siddeq Niyas from the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamath (SLTJ) originally from Oddamavadi, taking issue with women contestants with uncovered faces on posters (Hoole), gave the names of several Muslim women who demonstrated before Parliament for reform in September 2017, including hers, and said that they should be killed in order that Islam could progress. The Elections Commission could have called for his arrest under election laws, but failed to do so. Zahran who split from the SLTJ to form the All Ceylon Thowheed Jamath in 2014, again split to form the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ). 

Sabina explained, “In the development of an oppressive ideology, their first target is the control of women and forcing on them dress and behaviour forms that make them strangers to the people they long lived among. In turn their children are brainwashed into xenophobia by the same moulavis.

“You saw what the LTTE did among Tamils through ideological control. When it suited them they used women as suicide bombers. At other times they merely wanted them to be instrumental bearers of fighters.” 

The Easter bombings left the Island’s Muslim clerical establishment in a tizzy. Responding to the attack on Muslims on 5th May, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith went to Negombo and held the hand of Rizwi Mufti, the President of the All-Ceylon Jammatul Ulema (ACJU) and said that they both worshipped the same God. It was a culmination of conciliatory attitudes by churches, the main targets of the Easter violence, which restored a measure of calm to the Island. Muslim women, who have fought the ACJU on reform of laws relating to women, see in the outcome an entrenchment of the Wahabi establishment represented by the ACJU, whose ideological offspring were the Easter bombers.

Deep State or Bungling State?

The militancy of the Thowheed Jamath has its origins in the Fatwa issued by the ACJU in 1989 against the popular Sufi teacher Abdullah (Pailwan) of Maruthamunai in the East, declaring him and his followers as apostates; and the setting up of Muslim home guard units in 1990. The fatwa was evidently based on a biased reading of Abdullah’s book in Tamil Do You Know the Truth of Iman?, and after many court hearings, the ACJU in 1996, revoked the fatwa (Schwartz). However, the original fatwa served as a licence for violence and persecution against Pailwan and his followers. The ACJU appears to have done little to support the victims. On mid-day October 31, 2004, 500 Wahabis organized under the title “Jihad” again set the Meditation Centre of Pailvan’s followers in the centre of Kattankudy ablaze, destroying 117 buildings owned by Sufis and one Sufi was shot and killed by gunfire (Schwartz).

The alleged mastermind of the Easter carnage makes his photographic appearance in the Sunday Times feature of 16th August 2009 (Kamalendran), dealing with Wahabi violence against Sufi groups, as Moulavi M.C. (Mohammed Cassim) Zahran, Propaganda Secretary of the Thowheed group in Kattankudy. He denied that they were an armed group with external funding. Another Thowheed follower M.P. Azmi said, “We have a duty to correct the Muslims who are going on the wrong path. That is what we are doing.” The same report said that an unspecified number of Muslim home guards had deserted with their weapons, and sections calling themselves the Jihad joined a holy war against infidels. The report quoted Saudi Embassy Counsellor Mr. Al Khenene that while the Saudi Government was not helping Islamic groups in the country, ‘certain wealthy persons’ were aiding the construction of mosques. 

While up to a point the localised thuggery of the Thowheed suited the Wahabi controlled ACJU, by 2014 its aggressive zeal and growing splits had the ACJU worried. The Tamil daily Veerakesari of 15th Mar. 2017 reported a meeting of the NTJ in Kattankudy where pro-ISIS slogans were shouted, leading to a clash. We verified that it was an attack on the Sufi mosque of Moulavi Rauff led by Zahran, on 10th Mar. 2017. A clash ensued when others came to the defence of the mosque. Zahran was among those the Police arrested, who despite having caused injuries with swords, were soon released through political influence. Among them was Mohamed Niyas, who is said locally to have left for the Middle East and was seen again just before the Easter attack. He was among those who committed suicide when the security forces went to his hideout in Sainthamaruthu, south of Kattankudy. Women who campaigned for reform had filed a case against Mohamed Niyas for defamation, scheduled for hearing on 14th March 2017. They learnt that all of a sudden, he and his brother had plenty of money. 

Soon after the Easter bombing Rizwi Mufti told a meeting of religious leaders at the Parliamentary Complex (28 Apr. 2019) that in June 2014, he had given ‘all the documents’ on ISIS activity, to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He wanted him to arrest certain persons. His warnings, he said were ignored by the Rajapaksa government and its successor of 2015 (Rizwi). 

However, the Defence Ministry had routinely infiltrated the parent Sri Lanka Thowfeed Jamath (SLTJ). Its agent was the Secretary Moulavi Razik, also known for his fiery Wahabi sermons, and as Gotabaya’s man. CBS reported (3rd May 2019), “”We asked the intelligence agencies to take down the Facebook page of Zahran because he was polluting the minds of Sri Lankan Muslims,” Razik said.” We were told it is better to allow him to have the page so that the authorities could keep an eye on [him].”” The government spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne (2 May), has used the Razik link to claim that Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) was the paymaster of Thowheed Jamath and the Buddhist extremist BBS through a secret Defence Ministry account. Thowheed Jamath pointed to several fractious outfits and it was the Defence Secretary’s job to pay spies, even in the BBS.

GR has to answer a more apposite question. There was copious information about the incendiary activity and the hate rhetoric of Wahabi militants in Kattankudy, and their receipt of large funds. How did GR allow the grass of Wahabi terror to grow under his feet? Moreover, has not the BBS, whose anti-Muslim terror has begotten much mischief, and to which GR has well-publicised links, been a major cause of the pain forcing on Muslims the yoke of Wahabi extremism?

Zahran’s video address of early 2019 February raises questions that have puzzled observers. Likenesses to the LTTE are striking, as the injunction to kill traitors instantly without pity. But the thrust of the message was the consignment to hell by the droves of Buddhist extremists, who have killed Muslims and vandalised their mosques and businesses. Then why attack churches? Once the video was out, time was running out for Zahran. Unlike the LTTE, Zahran’s followers had to function in urban settings, cheek by jowl with hostile rival Thowheeds infiltrated by state intelligence. He used brainwashed family units as operational cover. 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced his presidential candidacy for the coming election as the man to rid the country of Islamic terrorism, after his record of championing Buddhist extremism while being arrogantly blind to its effect on Muslims. His years as defence secretary were spent crying wolf about an armed LTTE revival. The eight or so intelligence agencies he left behind slumbered through the impending danger. When two policemen were killed last November in Vavunativu, three miles through lagoon and scrubland from Kattankudy, the Police arrested two former LTTE cadres under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Only investigations after Easter confirmed that it was the NTJ.  

The tragedy of a non-secular state

Sri Lanka’s non-secular state, obliged since the 1972 Constitution to protect and foster Buddhism, has encouraged other major religious establishments to demand and successfully carve out their small kingdoms, to include even nominally secular universities. This milieu has been the basis for the ACJU’s tyranny over groups of increasingly educated and articulate Muslim women who have for thirty years agitated for the reform of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) that would bring the rights of Muslim women in line with those of women of other communities. 

These women point out that reform is necessary not just for the Muslim community, but for peace in the country. The cracks and the bereavements of Easter will be papered over, the leaders of civil society and the muftis will shake hands amidst smiles and go away. But the real problem, which is Wahabi ascendancy and xenophobia, will remain hidden. The alienation and isolation of the Muslim community, which was at the root of the Easter tragedy, will continue. 

The reforms demanded are very basic and include a bar on child marriage, mandatory registration of Muslim marriages and to raise the age of marriage for Muslim women from 12 to near 18. Spearheading the resistance to reform is the ACJU, and this has become the ground for extremist abuse of women demanding reform. These women point out that the effect of the Easter carnage, by temporarily at least incapacitating the terrorist extreme, has entrenched the power of the ACJU over Muslims despite some embarrassment. They point out that its head, Rizwi Mufti, who earlier called women who did not wear the veil prostitutes, has now asked them to remove the veil.

Their main fear is the ACJU’s perpetuation of the Wahabi stranglehold, which will not countenance reform particularly of the MMDA, which is essential to free Muslim women from their present isolation; which opens the floodgates to unsubstantiated propaganda, presenting the community as conspiratorially expanding their influence through high birth rates. Association of a community’s strength with mere numbers is an illusion fostered by the electoral system. It is not a symbol of strength when a Muslim girl from the East says at a demonstration for reform before Parliament: “I was forced to become a mother of twins at 13, when I should have been bearing schoolbooks. It was with a sense of nausea that I beheld my infants calling me Umma (Mother). My husband left me and I do not have support from anyone.”

An important reason why MMDA reform is stuck, the women reformers say, is because, most Muslim men who have reached the pinnacle of their careers, especially in public service, will not go against the ACJU’s dictates. Conservatism is reinforced by direct Saudi influence. We were reliably told by persons in authority that in the Muslim Fatwa Council of about 45 headed by Rizwi Mufti, up to a dozen are paid by the Saudi Government.

An allied topic which lies at the back of Sri Lanka’s tragedy is the politicisation and collapse of law enforcement, where politicians have usurped the roles of an independent police and judiciary. The independence of religious establishments too is open to question. The effects are seen in the failures of law enforcement above and in the ineffectiveness of protection afforded to the minority that stands up for principles.   

Bibliography

Schwartz, Stephen and Al-Alawi, Irfan, The Wahhabi Invasion Of Sri Lanka, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-wahhabi-invasion-of-sri-lanka/

Kamalendran, Chris, Fuard, Asif, Unholy tension in Lanka’s Muslim East, http://www.sundaytimes.lk/090816/News/nws_23.html

Hoole, Ratanajeevan, Women candidates under attack, The Island, 21 Jan.2018

Rizwi Mufti https://twitter.com/LankaMuslims/status/1122668579088781312

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Doctor please send a copy of this article to Rajeewa (doctor in altered facts), the fake.

  • 6
    0

    Dear Rajan Hoole,

    I am very grateful to you for your article, which comprehensively covers the background of the present misfortune that we all experience. To my recollection, Sri Lanka never had a parliament with such miserable people devoid of any intellect. The politicians during our undergraduate days included the likes of Colvin, NM and S.J Wilson. It is great that you stayed in Sri Lanka to make a difference while many of us are away from Sri Lanka.

    • 3
      0

      Dear Sunil,
      Good to hear from you after so long. I knew it was you from the names of politicians you mentioned. I well recall our philosophical and political discussions and your being a little upset about the leaders you mentioned after the thrill of the 1970 UF election victory. That is life.
      Rajan

      • 0
        0

        Yes indeed,history repeats: last time in 1983 it was the Indian intelligence agencies RAW and IB that weaponized Sinhala-Tamil ethnic tensions by creating and arming the LTTE.
        This time it is the CIA that is spread the Clash of Civilizations story and weaponizing religion and promoting anti-Muslim violence, so that its US Puppet Bondscam Ranil ensures that Lanka becomes a Colony of the USA after signing the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to let US forces set up a US military base in Trincomlee – under the guise that IS wants the Eastern Province for its Caliphate- a tall tale spun by Rohan Gunaratne who has a direct line to Bagdhadi and the CIA!

  • 2
    3

    Dr Hoole while appreciating your article i suspect its nuances will fly over the heads of the local sinhala intelligentsia who brought yahapalana into being. their abject capitulation before the sinhala racists behind the feb 2018 incidents has removed any legitimacy of their creation. that only leaves us with gota. hopefully he will learn from hindsight

  • 8
    0

    It is convenient for some to blame the LTTE for all what went wrong between Tamils and Muslims.
    Systematic anti-Muslim violence in the East was initiated under IPKF patronage with the EPRLF calling the shots. It reached a peak in 1989 in Sammanthurai.
    *
    Anti-Muslim politics runs deeper in Tamil nationalist circles. By 1970, the FP had lost faith in Muslim politicians and Muslim support.
    Narrow Tamil nationalism resented Muslims for lack of enthusiasm for its Jaffna-centred sectarian projects.
    In 1970 during Tamil youth protests in Jaffna against standardization, anti-Muslim slogans were shouted by pro-FP youth as the demonstrators approached the Muslim ward. It was the ‘pro-Beijing’ Communists that confronted the racists.

  • 3
    0

    The facts are these groups existed during Rajapaksa rule, The Muslim community had pleaded the government to take action and they did not do so , because of hidden reasons. But they continued to harass the community and in turn created a fertile land. In the mean time ISIS was taking shape in geopolitical stage and Lankans as usual thought it was an international issue and not domestic. When geopolitical environment changed ISIS has become a domestic issue (it is never sudden it was slowly brewing to explode). Rajapaksas and MS knew about it but were taken by surprise with outcome. They expected it to be the churches but ISIS forgot to tell them about the hotels. ISIS is not answerable to any government and will never change their plans for others convenience (they have no goal other than maximum destruction and deaths). Now our politicians are caught in a situation where “they cant either spit or swallow”. But the communal violence will continue as planned.

  • 3
    0

    When community complained governments ignored, In the mean time government was harassing the community. When disaster struck, as feared , the government and brain dead public is going after the community. So either way the community is strangled.This is how cunning people function.

  • 2
    0

    This article combined with Suranimala and the supporting videos of riots tell us the story behind the Easter Tragedy. There is no need for any more in depth analysis, conspiracy theories, geopolitical assay and alternate facts. People who keep writing and readers who are commenting on this lines , will continue with their bull hit with the purpose of shutting down truth. The mobs are brought in buses , and it is well planned and coordinated. These thugs , monks and the rest are well known to public and Rajapaksas. Most of these SENAS , Ganasara and other thugs(so called monks) were created and protected by Rajapaksas . They are not some unknown,mystery alien.So people should stop bull shiting and keep telling their favorite bed time stories. There is only one family which gains from these riots that is Rajapaksas. No one else.

    • 2
      0

      Today, or yesterday for that matter, Rajapakses don’t need extremists or their riots. They only need an election and those who can’t face elections are the one’ s who is looking to benefit from these riots.

  • 2
    0

    Is it so NAK. Then there was no reason for MR to be a back door PM just for a month.Was he in a hurry. The past history of Rajapaksas are peppered with disappearance, political killings, kidnap,white vanning , murdering journalist ( it must have been such a coincidence that we didnt have any after they left), cases filed against your favorite candidate Gotha in US ——the list goes on and on. Now for you, riots may be different from above said killings. But in forensic psychology experts look into the past history ,family back ground, pervasive character traits ,violent acts —the dots which connect to a psycho path. I do not think there is any politician who can match the illustrious (criminal)career of Rajapaksas. So lets not waste our time. MR had his chance and people showed him the door. Now he is back to his F- – – – N games.

  • 6
    1

    Thanks Dr. Hoole. As usual, your writing is not just an opinion or racist outburst, but rational – unlike those of the “Other” Dr.Hoole.

    BTW: you say ” including hers, and said that they should be killed in order that Islam could progress. The Elections Commission could have called for his arrest under election laws, but failed to do so. “

    Isn’t your brother-the “Other” Dr.Hoole in the said commission? Do you talk to him? Why not implore him to become less anti-sinhalese, and more introspective about the nature and cyclical symbiosis of racism, hatred and violence?

  • 0
    6

    Dear Professor,

    Why do not you contest for the Presidential Elections ? That is the best option you have instead of writing bullshit articles to express your hate for the Sinhalese and Buddhism. I checked the Wikipedia for secular states. Evan your UK masters have not been listed under the list.

    First of all instead of blaming Gotabaya Rajapakse and opposition, you need to do your job as an Elections Commissioner to have elections on time.

    You need to realise that your Yahaplanaya government has completely failed and they need to resign now and have elections. So that the people will make their decisions. Those are things that you need to promote instead of writing this articles to cover up weaknesses of your government.

    I am a Sinhalese Buddhist and I do not support at all communal violence. But we do not like other people complaining about our culture and religion. We have kind enough to prosper other two communities in the Island. It is their responsibility to behave as a one country and one community instead of trying create separate areas or regions for them..

    • 3
      0

      SJD
      I doubt if anyone (except the rare nut cases obsessed with his/her own weird beliefs) speaks badly of Buddhism or Sinhalese culture.
      Complaints are mainly about the breach of Buddhist code of conduct and uncultured conduct. That is out of respect for what should be.

    • 4
      0

      Mr Dahanayake

      You should have realised by now that there are TWO R. Hooles. The one you are accusing here of hating Buddhism + the Sinhalese is Rajan Hoole. The person who is on the Elections Commission is Ratnajeevan Hoole.

      Be careful not to attribute to one the sins (as you perceive them to be) of the other.

      • 0
        0

        Manel,
        .
        To be more precise, elder brother, Michael Richard Ratnarajan Hoole.
        .
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajan_Hoole
        .
        He was my class-mate at S. Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa for two years (that is not now a reputed school so it seems to have been left out of Wikipedia) and two years at Mt Lavinia.
        .
        However, as a result of unremitting effort on my part, I have discovered that he hasn’t ever looked at that Wikipedia entry. It had been made by one of his relatives who had not been able to prove to the Wikipedia guys that Rajan had been in that mountain school. Even his first school has not been mentioned: it had been Presbyterian Girls’ School, Station Road, Dehiwela. One way or another, he knows a fair amount of colloquial spoken Sinhala. His second school had been the CMS Practising School in Nallur, Jaffna.
        .
        On the other hand, his first degree had been a Second Upper in Electrical Engineering. Mr Dahanayake, here’s your chance to say that fifty years ago, Tamil students were favoured in Universities. This guy cannot now charge his mobile phone since he doesn’t know which end of the data cable goes into the device, and which end into 240-volt mains electricity, with some transformer intervening. This guy is not interested in Technology.
        .
        This man is just not normal. He had got a First Class in Mathematics. His PhD is in something in the area where Mathematics merges into Philosophy. And now the guy writes History! And he’s a vegan to boot!
        .
        He’d make a worse President than Maithripala Sirisena, if that is possible!
        .
        Shall we now forget him and his brother, and focus on what he has written?

      • 0
        0

        PART TWO

        Younger brother:
        .
        Samuel Ratnajeevan Herbert Hoole

        .
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratnajeevan_Hoole
        .
        Educated entirely in Jaffna; therefore knows no Sinhalese and has developed the hobby of harassing poor Sinhalese policemen posted to Jaffna. For that habit, he should be forgiven only if he helps Deshapriya and Abayasekera to get the next Presidential Election conducted properly later this year. Read carefully how he monitored elections in the Maldives last September:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-maldivian-parliamentary-elections-2019-where-a-happy-result-can-be-predicted/
        .
        The entire report can be downloaded even if you click at the requisite spot. Looks as though he has done his job too well, and thus got blamed.
        .
        I suggest you contrast them with the Rajapaksa family who cheat all the time, but are always winners.

    • 0
      0

      You’re attacking the wrong Dr Hoole, you idiot.

  • 2
    1

    Many thanks for your investigative article, Rajan.

  • 2
    0

    When Dr Rajan Hoole writes something we have come to expect a well-substatiated article, which must be read and re-read with care.
    .
    It is good to have his carefully considered views, clarified with video evidence. I understood nothing of what was being said in the videos, but we, Sinhalese, can trust him to be accurate; and, obviously, Hindu and Muslim readers (whose views are hardly ever synoptic) will obviously be correcting any possible errors.
    .
    Sunil J Dahanayake, you could do us a great favour by identifying suitable Sinhala-Buddhist candidates to contest the next Presidential Elections which are expected by around October 2019. People like you always make very sure that only people with such “impeccable” backgrounds ever have a chance to be elected to lead this country. In any case, Dr Hoole, by temperament, desire and age are totally ruled out from providing leadership to our country.
    .
    Please at least regard the two Hoole brothers as being mature and independent human beings who have a right to express their wise and honest thoughts.

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