13 November, 2019

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Terror: Motives, Links & Philosophy

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Time to rubbish rumour mills and stacks of proliferating shoddy theories – Terror: Motives, links and philosophy

It is clear that the Easter Sunday blasts were the work of domestic Muslim extremists. I have no access to confidential information outside the public domain, but what is available is prolific permitting intelligent analyses. Lanka’s intelligence and security apparatus has been wretched in action and poorly informed of the ‘philosophical-ideological’ mind-set of jihadism. We are better off thinking through for ourselves instead of waiting for the authorities. We have to think it through because while some matters are indisputably clear others are tantalisingly opaque. This is one of the most baffling cases of terrorism in the world in recent years.

Muslims-Christians-Buddhists

These three points are palpable – (NTJ stands for National Thowheed Jamath).

The Easter Sunday attacks are the work of an identified Muslim entity (NTJ).

It is incomprehensible why NTJ or any Lankan Muslim entity should choose Christian targets.

Clashes in recent years have all been between Buddhist extremists and Muslims.

The perplexing portion in this storyline is the triangle of terror with Muslims, Christians and Buddhists at its vertices. This is an aberration if one extrapolates the experience of recent years; Muslims and Christians enjoy cordial relations while Buddhist-Muslim relations have been fraught. Sinhala-Buddhist extremists have a history of intolerance and recent anti-Muslim rioting, fuelled by rumours, was led by these mobs; allegedly the police stood by and let the mobs run free. At a loss in the face of this ahistorical episode we have been offered a jumble of concoctions. Some say Easter is busy so it was an opportunity to inflict maximum damage; but Vesak, Kandy Perehara and prominent poya days are just as enticing. Others have said it was retaliation for the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand; an implausible claim by a government which has lost the plot and is whistling in the dark? The NTJ which has thus far vandalised Buddha statues is alleged to have switched targets and transmuted into a top-class terrorist outfit. None of this is credible or do they add up.

Some in the diaspora, recalling military-police brutality during the anti-LTTE war, point a finger at the State, but in this instance there is not a shred of evidence to support the claim. What is indisputable is that international warnings were ignored. The SL Mirror website (Dec 2016) goes further: “Intelligence authorities established that during the Rajapaksa regime a secret account in the defence ministry funded Thowheed Jamath, Bodu Bala Sena and other Muslim and Buddhist extremists” This is rubbish; if true, the next government would have delighted in exposing these “secret accounts”. 

Another theory refers to drug peddlers, but what on earth do drug-lords gain by putting the state security apparatus on full alert? Some say that Muslim businessmen are in cahoots with politicos; sure for money, how do such cabals benefit from the carnage? Another yarn is that the nation’s security apparatus is in tow with nefarious types – that it was incompetent is not in dispute, but a conspiracy of terror! Why? Bollocks! People don’t think their prattle through, so they churn out baloney. 

It is easy to make prima-face absurd allegations but we must refrain from inflaming feelings and be cautious about the Muslim-Christian-Buddhist dimension. At this time of writing no useful information about motives has surfaced. Allegations that stir religious tensions or statements for political advantage by government or opposition must stop. Misconduct and negligence must be probed and punished but now is not the right time; let things subside first. None of the theories I have summarised so far or stacks of others (a plot to overthrow pro-Western Ranil government; Mossad stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment; a conspiracy by India) are plausible. If every pontificated theory is riddled with holes, this begins to look like an abnormal occurrence with a huge subjective element. 

Home grown terrorism or global game?

The following are three prima-face reasonable inferences.

In scope, size and precision of execution it exceeds the isolated capability of domestic group.

An attack on this scale could not have been executed without exploiting a foreign connection.

There is no evidence to cast suspicion on any foreign government.

Another triangular enigma! Treat with caution the claim by Islamic State (IS) that its militants carried out the assaults. The claim, more likely, is a macabre after-the-event boast to get credit. After its defeat in Iraq and Syria it is desperate to rebuild its image as a credible fighting force. Usually it claims an attack very soon, publishing pictures of the jihadists on its media portal. In this case it did not provide any details and all but one of the faces in the much delayed photo it did release are covered. 

The following is typical of what is being circulated by domestic chauvinist organisations; “What happened yesterday is the tip of an iceberg. The objective is deep rooted with government, diplomatic and foreign connections. The Shangri-La bomber Zahran Hashim featured on YouTube, but investigators are prevented from digging deep. There are sleeper cells ready for the next phase: Buddhist temples all over the country during Vesak. There is no doubt they will target temples to drive fear into Buddhists as they did Christians. Next month Ranil Wickremesinghe will sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation deal with the US; chaos and emergency rule will help him surrender Sri Lankan sovereignty to the US.”

There is not one shred of evidence of Indian, US, Chinese or Timbuctoo government connection, or for that matter involvement of extremist organisations based in these countries. But newspaper and web innuendo are replete with bizarre sagas “Oh it must be this lot, oh it must be that lot”. Indication of any foreign government involvement is nil.

Ideology and eschatology

National Thowheed Jamath, is an ideologically faceless religious extremist sect.

Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ) is a well-known Islamic faith and campaign organisation.

TNTJ has denied any sympathy or connection with ISIS.

The Arabic word tawhid or thowheed (توحيد‎, தவ்ஹீத் in Tamil) represents the indivisible oneness of Allah. As in Judaism, Islam holds that God is One and a Unity; the word thowheed can be read simply as God; Jamath means Association or Assembly and Thowheed Jamath is best translated as Assembly of God, a name also used by a Christian-Pentecostal evangelical church of US origin. The NTJ is the spawn of a December 2018 split in the older Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaat (SLTJ) when the latter condemned defacing Buddha statues. The SLTJ itself emerged out of TNTJ which claims to be non-political and devoted to social activities. TNTJ’s community work is well recognised and includes education, preaching Islam, blood donation (it has won ten awards), tsunami and flood relief work, and dengue awareness. Its most notable achievement is a campaign against the dowry system.

However TNTJ’s activities are not entirely non-political as it has led demonstrations opposing ill-treatment of Muslims in India. The most notable is protest against killing of Muslim in Utter Pradesh for selling or eating beef. However TNTJ has never been accused of terrorism or connection to IS. It issued a statement condemning the Easter bombings and dissociated itself from the NTJ. Nor does TNTJ share IS’s Caliphate eschatology or advocate a crusade to make all the world Islamic. Like Christians and other monotheists, however, it does believe that the way to salvation is faith in the “one true God”.  

Community service oriented Islamic organisations proliferate in many countries. The huge Muslim Brotherhood organisations of the Middle East were famed for social service long before they hit the political headlines. Indonesia is well known for extensive community service Muslim societies. The SLTJ however is different; its General Secretary Abdul Razik called the Buddha a cannibal and the triple gem pebbles; his video generated an uproar. Razik was arrested in November 2016 and released on bail a month later. SLTJ agreed to apologise but violated the bail conditions by insulting Buddhist monks. Still the SLTJ, it seems, is not a terrorist outfit, just foul mouthed. 

The NTJ and its mastermind Zahran Hashim, in truth, are rather mysterious animals.  Its website has not been updated for long and little is known of legitimate activities, if any. It lacks the TNTJ’s record of community service nor does its philosophy exhibit a trend to service.  Its vision of heavenly denouement (eschatology) could well be a replication of Islamic State’s Caliphate cock-and-bull, but spoken, written or electronic evidence is unavailable. It is depraved, disconnected from reality and from Lanka’s larger Muslim community, though when the gun battle in Kalmunai is factored in, it cannot be called tiny. Its religious zeal mirrors the blinding faith that persuaded Abraham to drag Isaac up Mount Moriah intending to slaughter his son as a sacrifice to the One True God. This fervour motivates the Thowheed faithful to martyr their wives and children to gelignite. Searing intensity of devotional-political passion is its secular heaven, indistinguishable from its godforsaken creed. Somewhere deep in the soul a spiritual ache crosses a modern Styx to touch fingers with the darkest evil; of this Nietzsche wrote, 150 years ago.

We will rise again

It is logical, given the scale, scope and precision of operations, to factor in international training and materials supply; some may be Syria-returned jihadists. Crucially it is also clear on evidence so far that this is not an overseas operation of an international jihadist entity, rather it is home gown but leans on its overseas connections. This is the true elucidation of the conundrum I spoke of previously. Fortunately it also makes it easier to ferret out and pulverise the threat, which can be best accomplished with the help of the mass of the Muslims. Let not Sri Lanka repeat the blunder it made in marginalising the mass of the Tamils decades ago.

Is it possible that Lanka once again is a ‘world leader’? My training as a researcher impels me to hold back from slick theories and sloppy speculation – all of which I have scorned in this essay – until a lot more empirical evidence is gathered. Are we a crucible of innovation of a new spontaneous jihadism? We may well be on the first step of a very steep and new learning curve. Horrific though the events be, to dress the future in sack-cloth and ashes and declare Sri Lanka paradise lost is premature. The scale of a massacre must not be confused with motivation; a train wreck causes carnage but is a one-off event. The Muslim community itself is our first and best line of defence; many Muslim organisations have already risen to the occasion. And there is a flood of international goodwill that Lanka can lean on. The Easter 2019 horror is an anomaly; Lanka will bounce back, it can. Yes, I know that this is not what everyone else is saying; so what, let’s see!

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    The most important point in this article is that the Muslim people must defeat terrorism in their midst themselves. The government cannot do it without interfering with religious freedoms. The security forces cannot do it without using their jackboots and bayonets and crushing democratic rights – see what the Tiger problem led to – state terrorism and LTTE counter terrorism.

  • 0
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    Sri lankan Muslim Terrorism is very different from LTTE Tamil terrorism. Muslim s are very cooperative and govt could solve because of muslim cooperation. ITis Tamils who do not want to accept their fault and go behind the International community. Muslims in that sense very good people. but, we can not expect everty one to be good, when there foreigner Mullahs are coming to teacch the Religious philosophy in Madrasas and when Muslims go and learn wahabism from the middle east. I here, in this case, UK was the training ground and money came via BITCOIN and from UK.

  • 0
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    There is an ugli american in CT who says the polished – version of that story. He is a Sri lankan born and sinhala speaking.

  • 0
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    It is India who gave the information. One politician said even US informed that,. but, later they did not say it. India Warned about TNTJ asking not to give VISa and arrested some I suppose. India informed Saudi arabia made two arrests in Saudi Arabia too.

  • 1
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    Kumar wake up dude, Arabic and French experts have rejected the so called Al Bagdhadi video which was doctored, with audio recording imposed on the video later to refer to the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka
    Saudi Arabia had prior info on the attacks and also
    http://english.almanar.com.lb/727410
    as.www.arabnews.com/node/1490246/world
    Like the Fake video of Al Bagdhadi supposedly talking about Sri Lankan attacks the murky terror networks in the Middle east, invisible to Sri Lankan empiricists, are run by the Empire’s 2 proxies Saudi and Israel, the latter spreading Whitestream stories from the White House that Bitcoin funded the terrorists in Sri Lanka when it was Wahabism spreading Saudi Arabia that had prior notice of the attacks and pumped the funds to BOTH IS and Kathankudi. All this terror finally benefit the Empires’ military business industrial complex to make America Great Again and choke China and the Rise of Asia.

  • 1
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    Our, last left out Tamil Left is unwilling to include the available data in his analysis, but simply knocking them off as “Conspiracy Theories”. Can somebody explain me the difference between Prof. Kumar’s arrogance in his analysis to use all date and Aanduwa Comedians going to Elzhumaiyan putting the Indian warning notices in their Amude? Both are sheer Negligence!
    There is a joke said about famous scientist (Newton) of having big & Small, two holes on the wall to let in & out the mother and the daughter kitten to his room, while he has the door closed for human being, to fully concentrate on his work. Same way there is a double hole in the analysis Prof. Kumar’s presenting.
    If you let little warm Sun rays come in to his research lab, you can see clearly the Igloo cocoon he has built around him to hide from public information.
    Aanduwa, the patron and ISIS, the supplier, operated with two different, mutually exclusive objectives, not congruent, neither can be overlapped.
    Prof Kumar’s difficulty is the inverse of holes on the wall, goofing to the simplest matter, that both cats can come in through the larger hole. Prof Kumar can’t see that Aanduwa had its own objective while hiring ISIS and ISIS had its objects in attacking the Civilians. His assumption is both can be same or there can be nothing. That is where his invention of “other than what he is sayings, all are conspiracy theories” is coming in. Prof Kumar is trying to standoff something like that Old King did not use Deva to crush Tamils, neither Ranil split Karuna to defeat LTTE. But Karuna and Deva they both too had their reasons to go on their own rampages on Tamils & LTTE. That is why KD is needing this, his own conspiracy theory?

  • 1
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    All remember Sirimavo prepared JVP to destroy Dudley if he had won 1970 election. But, when that planning went wrong, the “The ram brought up by the famer butted on its owner’s chest”. That is because Wijeweera too had his own agenda, while he was working with Sirimavo. If somebody understands up that only they can go the rest. Wijeweera and Sirimavo, the hero and the enemy’s enemy, set off on their journey together. But the opportunist, enemy’s enemy had her thirst fulfilled in the middle of the journey and became the ultimate enemy, so it was needed to Hero Wijeweera to attack Sirimavo government.
    Last March, Britain & the core group had really a challenging job. They wanted to make Lankawe agree with them while heeding to Tamils for an International Investigation. But the Tamil political comedians made the job easy to Britain. They got split in them and one group demanded Secret Solution, another one Internal Investigation, other one Referendum and another one development. So it became to core group so easy to brush off these comedians and go on its own path. Britain offered Aanduwa the most possible solution it can offer, an unconditional two year extension. This is where things went wrong to Yahapalanaya, just like Sirimavo. It had prepared Misallies launchers & atomic bombs to deal with the UNHRC, now it had to dispose all those somewhere. What to do with the ISIS preparation Yahapalanaya had?
    But Aanduwa is always lucky, unbelievably, so one Skin Head Modayas attacked Muslims in New Zealand. Pazham Nazhuvi Paalil Vizhundathu Pol Aache The fruit which slipped from the hand only to fall into the milk. Now the effort needed to dip in the milk before eat it is no longer needed. Now, the Aanduwa, which had set the focus of the local ISIS on Tamils in General to teach a lesson to West, who were supposed get a solution to Tamils in UNHRC, but reset on the Tamil Christians. Bravo!

  • 1
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    There is a story is said about a shrewd, smart girl. One time a devil was bothering her father, the farmer in his field works. He used his limited black art knowledge and made it in to a cooli . Struggling for escape from the black art the ghost failed & at last surrounded with a warning that the farmer would have to give it a job always or it will clear off him. Farmer ridiculed the warning saying “Work? Come with me I saw you the root of it”. But it was ghost, no? Within two- three days the entire field work of the farmer was done. So next morning before farmer went to field tried, to explain his daughter that he may not come back home. She said don’t worry dad, send him to me, I take care of it. “But you are child” dad said. “Please do that dad”. She replied. When the ghost was coming she took a iron wire and heating it on the fire and beating to straighten it. Ghost reported to duty and was watching what she was doing. She plugged one of her hair and gave it to straighten & bring. She warned if failed she would kill it. Every time after ghost thought it was straight and was about take it to her it recoiled. This ghost was thinking what to do. It remembered how easily the little girl were straightening the iron rod by heating & beating. It too gave a try and the hair was burned. The ghost ran into the wilderness, never to return, again.
    The Ghost may never return back to Lankawe because of the failed job of exclusively focusing on Tamil Christians. But for Tamils, when Old Royals comes back to power using this jolt & jerk, “Pazhaiya Kurudi Kathavai Thiravadi” (My old blind darling, just open the door for me)

  • 4
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    Kumar David,

    You have done your research well, but I can tell you that one invariant in any research on Sri Lanka is this:

    Supremacy of the Sinhala language and the foremost place for Buddhism in something that has been nurtured by politicians and the Buddhist hierarchy for seven decades and it is institutionalized in the Sri Lankan state.

    One need not go into the details, and its malevolent expressions, of this concept of supremacy based on false beliefs.

    With this invariant in place, I am afraid; Sri Lanka will continue to be a boiling pot with riots, revolts and terrorism. If you throw in the disillusioned Sinhalese youth who revolted twice, but mercilessly suppressed without any reform of the state it will add another dimension.

    There is little to be gained by analyzing the latest terrorist attack and the response by the security apparatus without going into the Sri Lankan political trajectory since independence at least.

    • 3
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      “If you throw in the disillusioned Sinhalese youth who revolted twice, but mercilessly suppressed without any reform of the state it will add another dimension.”
      The disillusioned lads are now on the parliamentary path seeking power.
      A breakaway group is having other ideas, but is not adventurist the way the JVP was.
      *
      The political trajectory has other dimensions to consider besides Sinhala Buddhist hegemony.
      The failure of the old left helped the communalisation of politics in a big way.

  • 5
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    A fair analysis.
    However, the targets other than hotels were all Catholic. In Batticaloa, the church service was over at St Mary’s and the bomber went to the nearest which was the Zion Church.
    What the bombers wanted to achieve for themselves other than going to heaven is still unknown.
    It is unlikely that IS had an agenda for Sri Lanka, and this is not its style of work elsewhere. It works to establish itself in a position of power or influence or to generate wealth for itself.
    The Sri Lankan experience points to IS links but not to an IS driven project. For a clue about the promoters of the project, will it help to check who the potential beneficiaries are?

  • 0
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    Good article Prof.

    I was surprised that when I spoke to a Sinhala friend recently, he said they were feeling worried for the first time after this barbaric incident, where as the muslim community has been in constant fear and danger ever since the war ended in 2008, the buddhist extremist led by different monks has been creating numerous issues day in and day out, riots, burning down of shops, creating issues with clothing, food, places worship etc etc, and nobody bothered or cared.

    And even now nobody talks about it. Sri lanka has become a full blown racist country, and looks like now no going back on this for the next 25 years atleast ( that means this generation is also lost)

    Finally, i realised now no point worrying about it anymore, its a cancer in terminal stage and cannot be cured, it will self destruct very soon.

  • 0
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    Kumar David’s belated “Terror: Motives, Links & Philosophy” has less useful material compared to hundreds on the Lankan 2019 Easter Sunday.
    Mentioning Nietzsche will not make it ‘Philosophy’. My…..my…my foot.
    Kumar pontificates {“Time to rubbish rumour mills and stacks of proliferating shoddy theories”}
    But goes on to do just that!
    Kumar tells us that NTJ stands for National Thowheed Jamath and lists three ‘palpable’ points. In the third point, he does not mention as to who the “Extremist Buddhists’ are. The family which patronised, protected and nurtured the group is well known.
    One expected Kumar to question and explore connections, if any.
    Kumar infers “There is no evidence to cast suspicion on any foreign government”.
    How many ‘Intelligence Agencies’ is needed to screw a light-bulb?
    [edited out]

    • 0
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      Kumar David the old leftist who has all but reneged on Marx and turned supporter of Sarath Fonseka for the presidency and the US-sponsored Ranil- mangala Right-wing combine cannot understand why Islamic extremists are attacking western tourists and Catholics.
      Simple
      It is still the continuation of the Crusades where you attack the West and the Holy Roman Empire.

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