Colombo, May 5 (newsin.asia): Reacting to some of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds here following the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in several parts of Sri Lanka, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on West Asian terrorism, said that there is no truth in the oft-repeated allegation that the United States was behind the founding of the al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).
“al Qaeda was founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden. This group did not get any financial aid, weapons or weapons training from the US. There were other groups which received very significant assistance from Asian, Middle Eastern and European countries to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden had not travelled to the US, although he had a small group of radicalized Muslims supporting him in the US with financial aid. But the al Qaeda was the most fanatical group which fought in Afghanistan,” Dr.Gunaratna said.
Founding of ISIS or IS
On the ISIS or IS the expert said: “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was formed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi , a Jordanian criminal. He was radicalized when he was in prison at Zarqa in Jordan. We went to Afghanistan where he tied up with another Jehadist, Abu Mohammad al Maqdisi, and received funding from bin Laden.”
“Zarqawi moved from Afghanistan to Iraq after the US moved into Afghanistan in October 2001. It was in Iraq that he founded the forerunner of the Islamic State, ,namely, the Taweed Wal Jihad, which inspired many terrorist groups around the world including the National Tawheed Jamaath leader Zahran (or Jaharan as his passport says.)
“It is to be noted that Zarqawi did not get funding from the US or any Western country. The only mistake the US made was invading Iraq in 2003. The invasion created the ground for extremism and terrorism, and provided the backdrop for the emergence of the ISIS,” Dr.Gunaratna said.
“Therefore, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans should not be worried about the US, India or Britain providing security and intelligence assistance to the government following the bombings carried out by the IS on Easter Sunday,” the expert emphasized.
“Sri Lankans need international support because the Islamic State is an international force, a force which has struck deep roots in the Maldives, India and Bangladesh, and established a ‘Caliphate’ in the Khorasan region (an area including parts of Afghanistan-Pakistan ). Help from countries which have experience in dealing with the IS is needed to track the operations planning and financial transfers taking place now and are to take place in future.”
“International cooperation is necessary to detect those spreading IS ideas in Sri Lanka and those who are accessing IS propaganda here. Cyber space is internationally linked making it critically important for Sri Lanka to secure international cooperation.”
“The Sri Lankan government should in fact have been talking about this to the international community from 2015 onwards as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had transformed itself into the Islamic State (IS) on June 29, 2014 and become even more radical than before.”
“Unfortunately, the government did not realize the significance of the development and the inevitable happened on Easter Sunday,” Dr.Gunaratna said.
Hisbullah Not Connected
The expert ruled out the involvement of the Eastern Province Governor MLAM Hisbullah in the conspiracy behind the April 21 blasts saying that Zahran had vehemently campaigned againt Hisbullah.
Commenting on the demand that the so-called Shariah University that Hisbullah is setting up in his native district of Batticaloa be taken away from him and run as a normal Sri Lankan university, Dr.Gunaratna said that government should regulate such institutions and not allow such exclusivist institutions in Sri Lanka.
“Such exclusivist universities and institutions may be alright in a country which is completely or mostly Muslim, but not in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country like Sri Lanka. They are not appropriate for Sri Lankan conditions. The government must also bar students from going to such exclusivist educational institutions in the Middle East and Pakistan.”
Dr.Gunaratna also said that government should ensure that foreign Islamic preachers who come here to lecture should only preach the kind of Islam Sri Lankan Muslims have been practicing from the earliest times, a “beautiful Islam” which enabled the Muslims to live in harmony with the Buddhists, Hindus and Christians of Sri Lanka .
Asked if the entry of US and other Western agencies will not lead to Western infiltration into Sri Lankan national security institutions, Dr.Gunaratna said that while taking Western assistance Sri Lanka should safeguard its national interests and independence. It should also be “equidistant” between the West, India and China, he said.
“We need the cooperation of the West as its technology is twenty years ahead of China’s, but we need Chinese funds for large scale infrastructure projects,” he explained.
On pressure being mounted by the West on the human rights front to keep Sri Lanka on the leash, Dr. Gunaratna said that the US should stop preaching human rights to Sri Lanka given its gross human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Iraq Body Count Project documents 183,249 to 205,785 violent civilian deaths through to February 2019.
(Dr.Gunaratna is the author of 16 books including Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (University of Columbia Press), Gunaratna edited the Insurgency and Terrorism Series, Imperial College Press, London.)