Easter Sunday Carnage: Reality of Killer and Victim



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A church bombed by the NTJ


By Dr. M. A. Mohamed Saleem


Humans are sacred, and they signify the pinnacle of all creations. According to Islam, all human beings came from the same source in which rests the rightful ownership of all lives. Therefore, no one has the right to take life of another. Periodic revelations to humans from that single source developed into different religions. One fundamental principle of Islam is that every religion must be accorded full respect. However much one may disagree with some tenets of a religion, Muslims are under a divine decree to honour and protect any house of worship as they protect their Mosques. Any attempt to prevent followers of another faith from worshiping according to their own lights, is condemned by Islam as sacrilege.


These fundamental principles were blatantly desecrated by the savage act of a mentally deranged group on Easter Sunday 21st April when Catholic/Christian worshipers came under attack. On the same day peaceful holidaymakers in hotels were also targeted. Words cannot express the shock and revulsion of this profanity that made it the darkest day in the recent history of Sri Lanka. Everyone condemns what happened on that day in the strongest possible terms.


The suicide bombers, and all those directly or indirectly inspired them, may have carried Islamic names. The culprit organization National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) and affiliates, even claim their misconstrued and skewed ideologies based on cherry-picked Quranic verses, constituting true Islam and consider all others who do not comply with their concocted creed, including those who believe in oneness of God (-Allah-) and Prophet Muhammad as the last messenger in the prophetic chain, as misguided infidels and need to be shunned as much the Christians and Jews. This means in the eyes of Thowheed Jamath, I, my family, and the rest in this country professing to be Muslims for generations, are not Muslims. That is why Thowheed Jamath had established different Mosques for their followers and had adopted different protocols for prayers and decision making on religious matters. As a way of showing disconnectedness, the Thowheed Jamath always takes exception to what the Muslim majority practices. For instance, the Thowheed group begins the annual fasting season or celebrates festivals one/two days ahead of the mainstream Muslims. Information was floating that the NTJ attackers on Easter Sunday also had plans to demolish some Mosques as well, not of their kind where majority Muslims go to pray.


This being the case, it would have been easier to isolate followers of NTJ and apprehend everyone connected with the suicide bombing. That may have happened given the speed at which law enforcement authorities moved after the crime. This did not however stop suspicion being cast on the entire Muslim community, which is being subjected to ‘courtesies’ that law enforcement agencies normally accord when in pursuit of hardcore criminals. Some electronic and print media also went an extra mile demonizing and fanning hate on the Muslims, freedom of speech and global Islamophobia provided them cover.


When Muslims were being targeted on May 12th/13th it is the same law enforcement agencies that declared a countrywide curfew but, did nothing to stop the attack, seemingly giving the advancing mobs a free hand to execute someone’s orders. The law enforcement agencies were prompt to claim that the attack on the Muslims was the work of a very small group of Nationalist Buddhist extremists, readily freeing up the rest of the Buddhists from blame for the crime. Although more than 35 Muslim villages, numerous shops and factories were torched, in the eyes of the security forces or the media, it did not qualify to be branded as act of terrorism or the news be given importance it deserved, because the victims were Muslims.


The planners and the attackers may have succeeded in staging a backlash against the Muslims, but they totally disregarded the appeal from the Cardinal and the affected community for calm in the spirit of forgiveness and mercy, for the Easter Sunday criminals probably ‘knew not’ the gravity of what they were tasked to do. Whoever masterminded the recent attack on the Muslims caused even a bigger tragedy than the suicide bombers, because the entire nation was deprived of the chance for somber reflections and experience the power of forgiveness, as our Catholic/Christian brethren had wanted, and to become hardened in resolute to collectively fight the scourge of terrorism which has no place or protection in any religion.


For any truth seeker it will be obvious that globally Muslims, particularly in Middle East, are the victims: they are being forced out of societal roots , their homes are bulldozed, lands grabbed, free movement and expression curtailed, dissenters tortured, sick denied medical care and the able economically maimed by siege. In a world where might is thrust as right, the dispossessed future and powerlessness of Muslims are shamelessly presented as mediation chips and the dissenters earn the sobriquet ‘terrorists’.


In Sri Lanka, Muslims have suddenly become a target of hostility, particularly from the Buddhists, after the war ended in 2009. Right up to that time Muslims were an integral part of the fight against the separatists. Mahinda-Gota combination is given credit for bringing the armed separatists under control which no other government during the 30 years of war was able to do. Where there is an enemy, a ‘tough’ line government is deemed preferable and justified.


Although Muslims in Sri Lanka did not consider anyone as enemy, it certainly has a global Islamophobia challenge. Thus, for anyone in Sri Lanka who wanted an enemy to justify continuing in power, the Muslims are an easy target and a logical pick. Post war, everything Muslims did in this country was considered abhorrent: dress code, eating habits, mannerisms, social gatherings, religious rituals, marriage laws, procreation patterns etc. which hitherto were well known practices, suddenly became the subject of ridicule . Their dwellings, places of worship, social standing and work places generating livelihood became targets for destruction as it happened in Aluthgama, Amparai, Digana, and Gintota. Easter Sunday carnage recently gave additional venom and protective cover for the Buddhist mobs to target the Muslims in Negombo, Gampaha, Kurunegala and Minuwangoda areas.


For long, Muslims, particularly from the Northern part of this country, have been at the receiving end: banished from their traditional homesteads in 1990 by the LTTE, and repeatedly hounded by Buddhist mobs since 2010. This being the case, why and how churches and hotels became targets for suffering Muslims to show some form of protest and reprisals? It is claimed that the National Intelligence radar had spotlighted NTJ for its radicalization and militant tendencies, and also this group had received government financial assistance. It is common knowledge that any group on an ISIS mission pronounces "Allahu Akbar" at the time of executing an assignment. This did not happen at Easter Sunday bombing, and speculations are rife that on that day the NTJ group was not on a ‘jihad’ mission to propagate its brand of Islam, but it was providing mercenary service for someone else looking out for a chaotic situation to get a foothold in Sri Lanka, as the Middle East is subjected to and, targeting Catholics/Christians ensured international support for the plan.


All those who carried out the Easter Sunday attack were well educated and had affluent backgrounds. How did they join the NTJ extremist group, which had been led by half-baked preacher Zahran? Was Zahran more convincing to those developed minds for their searching inquiries on Islam and societal implications, compared to the main stream ritualistic, monotonous and Arabic-chanting sermon-givers, posing as religious leaders? These leaders too need a soul search and intellectual/attitudinal change, if they are to spiritually cater to rapidly advancing, inquisitive young Muslim minds in the electronic age, and dissuade them from going astray.


According to a Prophetic warning to Muslims, there will be a time when both the killer and killed will not know why they were involved, and Easter Sunday carnage is a reminder of that warning. Muslim bashing is not the answer. For a Muslim, taking one life is like killing the whole humanity, and saving one life is like saving entire human race. It is to this principle that true Muslims are devoted and build their relationships with others. In a growing Islamophobia environment, it is a position Muslims find it difficult to sell, and unfortunately even in this land of Buddha Dhamma, Muslims are compelled to lose out.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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