The scenes of the gruesome deaths of innocent civilians and multiple explosions across three churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa and further explosions at high-end hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday morning will forever be etched in our minds – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
I’m a few thousand miles away from my motherland as I pen these thoughts.
A routine and simple visit to family living overseas, rich with the promise of fun and laughter, has turned into sleepless nights and constant monitoring of news sites and checking up on loved ones.
The scenes of the gruesome deaths of innocent civilians and multiple explosions across three churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa and further explosions at high-end hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday morning will forever be etched in our minds.
Being Muslim, their deaths will be mourned and remembered for many moons to come, but so will the painful news that followed – the suicide bombers who carried out and coordinated the attack with military precision were radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known extremist group called the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ).
How a sensible person with a clear conscience perpetrate such a sinister act and mayhem against humanity, whether he is Muslim or non-Muslim, boggles the mind.
The modus operandi and sophistication of the deadly assault which mercilessly killed, at last count, over 200 local civilians, over 40 foreign nationals and injured a further 500, indicate that without an international link’s organisational capability and strategy, it wouldn’t have mounted to such a lethally daring and methodical attack.
It has now transpired that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks and even released group photos and a purported video of the group that were directly involved in the attacks pledging allegiance to the ISIS leader. Sri Lanka’s bombings certainly bear hallmarks of a dreaded Islamic State attack due to its barbarity and ruthlessness.
Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, international terrorism expert, opined that the savage attacks on Sri Lanka’s soil appear to be the handiwork of the Islamic State (IS) in collaboration with its “Sri Lankan branch”. In fact, ISIS is designated as a “Terrorist Organisation” by the UNO and is widely known for its videos of beheadings and other types of brutal executions.
The ideology of ISIS and NTJ are not only anathema but also against the tenets of Islam. These fanatics simply exploit the peaceful religion of Islam for their own benefits and personal glorifications. Needless to say, ISIS and the so-called NTJ are “Munaafiqs” (hypocrites) of the highest order.
Terrorism has no religion, no race, no ethnicity and no singular ideology other than creating mayhem and senseless violence against innocent people. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Islam has given so much importance to human beings that it likens the killing of a single person to wiping out the whole of humanity.
“Whoever kills a person, it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he has saved all mankind” (Quran, 5:32).
Islam has taught its followers to treat all mankind with mercy, tolerance and justice. Its teaching of peace encompasses all humanity, irrespective of religion, caste and creed.
Moreover, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “Allah shows kindness towards those who are kind to one another. Be kind to those who live on this earth, and the one above the skies will be kind to you” (Tirmidhi).
Most importantly, the act of suicide is a grave sin in Islam. Allah Almighty says in the noble Quran: “…And do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another). Surely, Allah is most merciful to you.” (4:29)
The prohibition of suicide has also been mentioned in many hadith. The Prophet said, “He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire.” (Sahih al Bukhari, 2:23:446)
In addition, during his life Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave various injunctions to his forces and as per his conduct of war, he categorically prohibited the mutilation of dead bodies, the killing of a child, woman, and the elderly, and the senseless slaying of an enemy’s flocks and even warned against the burning of trees. The commandments above were just a few of exemplary many others followed to the letter by early Muslim generals during their historic campaigns and conquests.
This clearly manifests that, neither ISIS now NTJ adhere to Quranic injunctions nor follow the sunnah (the words and action of Prophet Muhammad) which promotes peaceful existence among all living beings on earth and eschews hatred, bigotry and violence against humanity. It is ironic that they carry these acts in the name of Islam, when their suicide missions and brutal slaughter of innocent people is going to drag them straight to the bottom of the fiery pits of hell.
NTJ under the fire brand leadership of Zahran Hashim from Kattankudy who was the ring leader of the suicide bombings, attained prominence last year owing to the vandalism of Buddhist statues at Mawanella. It was against this vile human being, that a few years ago Muslim leaders and the community of Kattankudy lodged complaints with the police with due to his hate-filled speeches and videos which incited violence and bigotry.
Sheikh Arqam Noor Amith, an Executive Member of ACJU and Secretary of Youth Affairs, broke down recently while speaking with media about how intelligence officials were informed of the extremism displayed by this individual and his organisation, as far back as 2015. Had he been apprehended and brought to justice, Easter Sunday’s blood bath and carnage could have been averted.
Since Christianity is an Abrahamic religion which cultivate a close affinity with Islam and in fact, Muslims are allowed to marry Christian women without conversion, it defies logic that the NTJ has chosen the sacred churches on our land to unleash its deadly suicide missions on.
The only plausible reason deduced from this is that its members were systematically indoctrinated and misguided by handlers and were simply following instructions and acting like mindless zombies. What depravities must run in the minds of such youth to allow to be brainwashed to this extent?
By massacring innocent people and ending their lives abruptly, and causing extensive damages to churches, as well as the creation of deep rifts and racial disharmony between the living – the Muslim and Christian community – Zahran Hashim, the blood-thirsty monster who was the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday carnage has caused indescribable misery and mental agony for all of us. All communities in our beautiful country have been affected in some way or the other, and in particular the Muslim community is left to bear the inevitable backlash and its consequences of these crimes.
The Sri Lankan Government should bring all perpetrators, including the financers who callously contributed to this heinous crime, and severe punishment should be meted out against the offenders without mercy or compunction.
We the Muslims of Sri Lanka unreservedly condemn the perpetrators’ despicable acts of terror committed against our Christian brothers and sisters on Easter Sunday, on the soil of our Motherland.
In this time of deep distress, we join hand in hand with our beloved Christian community to offer our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. May Almighty Allah give strength and fortitude to the grieving families to bear the loss of all our departed souls, and we fervently pray for the speedy recovery of all our injured brethren.
As Sri Lankans, let us get together to eradicate the menace of terrorism and work together in brotherly spirit and camaraderie to achieve peaceful co-existence and harmony.