Colombo, April 28 (newsin.asia): It was the Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI), which was the actual perpetrator of the Easter Sunday carnage in Colombo and two other Lankan towns, Dr.Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on Islamic terrorism, says.
The Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem and the National Tawheed Jamaat are to be banned, and steps are being taken to give effect to this, the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had said in a press release on Saturday.
However, Dr.Gunaratana, who is a co-author of “The Three Pillars of Radicalization” (Oxford University Press 2019), feels that it was the Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem which had committed the crime.
Mohammad Cassim Mohammad Zahran or Zahran, the leader of the pack of nine suicide bombers, had quarrelled and left the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and founded the Jamatheir Millathu Ibraheem, because the NTJ was lagging behind in radicalism.
“The Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem was the more radical of the two and was the local representative of the Islamic State (IS),” Dr.Gunaratna said.
Even before President Sirisena mentioned JMI in his communiqué relating to a proposed ban on it, Sri Lankan officials had been mentioning JMI, but without expanding the acronym. This left many to imagine that it was the Jamaat ul Mujahideen India (JMI), well known in India as an affiliate of IS.
The Sri Lankan State Minister of Defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, had mentioned in his press conference that two groups were involved in the blasts. But he named only one, the National Tawheed Jamaat .
However, without naming the second group, he said that the second group was the more radical of the two and that Zahran was the leader of the more radical group.
According to Dr.Gunaratna also, the more radical group is the Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem founded by Zahran, who was also the most radical of Sri Lankan Islamic radicals.
In Dr. Gunaratna’s view, the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) with which Zahran is generally associated, was not involved in the blasts as Zahran had fought with it and left it to form another group, the JMI.
However, Dr.Gunaratna felt, that whatever that remains of the NTJ has to be banned and its affiliates closely watched because the organization could still be involved in the radicalization of SriLankan Muslim youth.
“After Zahran left the NTJ, he got closer to IS, and founded JMI with the term Fi-Saylani added to it to make it the Saylan or Sri Lanka branch of the IS,” the expert said.
Impact of Nilam Muhsin’s Death
According to Dr.Gunaratna, JMI was actually created after the death of a 37 year-old Sri Lankan Muslim man called “Nilam Muhsin” in Syria in July 2015 while he was fighting with the IS there.
A karate master from Galewela in Sri Lanka’s Kandy district, Sarfaz Nilam Muhsin, known in the Islamic State as Abu Shuraih Sailani, was killed in Syria in July 2015 in a US air strike. He was said to be the first Sri Lankan member of the ISIS.
After completing his GCE Ordinary Level (Class 10), Nilam Muhsin alias Abu Shuraih Sailani, pursued Islamic studies with great zeal mastering Hadith science. He studied contemporary Fiqh (The theory or philosophy of Islamic law, based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet). He did an LLB in Shariah Law at the International Islamic University in Pakistan.
“Nilam’s laying down his life for the sake of God, became a model for Zahran and some radicalized educated and well-heeled Muslims in Sri Lanka. That he was from a rich family and had studied in the elite Trinity College in Kandy enhanced his appeal,” Gunaratna said.
The death of Nilam and his background were reported widely in Sri Lanka. Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe told parliament that 35 Sri Lankan families had left for Syria to join the IS. But Rajapakshe was shouted down by Muslim MPs who maintained that he was lying to create animosity towards local Muslims.
The new Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government formed in January 2015, took no notice of its own Minister’s statement because national security was the least of its concerns, wedded as it was to the restoration of democracy and communal and religious harmony after the Rajapaksa era, which was dubbed authoritarian and communal.
“If Nilam’s network here and abroad had been probed at that time, and action had been taken, the Easter Sunday blasts would not have taken place and 253 people would not have died,” Dr.Gunaratna remarked.
“The new government not only ignored the advice of security officials but arrested and prosecuted them demoralizing and weakening the security establishment,” he added.
Dr.Gunaratna said that one of the lessons of the Easter Sunday carnage is that politicians should not interfere in security matters. “Politicians are not trained to look at things through the security prism,” he said.
“The Sri Lankan Security Forces, which are highly professional and which had defeated one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world, were disabled by political interference,“ the expert said.
He called for new laws because the present laws are inadequate to tackle many aspects of terrorism, such as the process of radicalization, preaching hatred and other activities inimical to social and religious harmony and national security.
“The existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) cannot be used against those indulging in divisive radical propaganda. I have therefore proposed the adoption of a five-point plan to deal with radicalization.”
Giving details he said: “There should be a Harmony Act on the lines of Singapore’s Harmony Act which will criminalize hate speech. Segregation of schools on the basis of ethnicity and religion must end, and all schools should be mixed. The present system of teaching only the religion of the student should stop and all students must go through an inter-faith course. Government must blacklist and punish preachers who preach hatred and animosity. Preachers must be given a license for two years at a time. Every preacher must have a No-Objection Certificate from the government.”
Turkey and the Maldives, though 100% Islamic, keep a close watch on what is said by clerics in the mosques and insist that they follow government’s guidelines. In Turkey, the government lays down the line to be take by the Imams evey week.
Dr.Gunaratna praised the attitude and work of the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulema (ACJU) which has stood behind the people of Sri Lanka in the hour tragedy and loss.
“The ACJU should be entrusted with the task of guiding preachers in the mosques. The preachers must be told to keep an eye on radicalization and take steps to prevent it. In this respect, the ACJU would be playing a role entirely in the interest of the Muslim community because all but a tiny fraction of them practice a beautiful form of Islam. They have been doing so all along,” Dr.Gunaratna said.
H.M Ameer, head of the Abdul Jawad Ali Waliullah Trust, speaking to this correspondent from the all-Muslim town of Kathankudy in the Eastern Province and the native place of Zahran, said that the Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI) is a shadowy organization about which little is known.
“It was part of the NTJ and was used to carry out operations which the NTJ did not want to own. It was rather like the Elara force (Elalan Padai) at the time Tamil Tigers were active in the North areas. When the Tigers attacked Lankan Security Forces during a ceasefire period or when talks were on, they would feign ignorance and blame the shadowy Elara group for the trouble,” Ameer recalled.
(The image at the top is the site of the blast in Batticaloa town in East Sri Lanka)