Clashes Between Muslim Sects Concern National Security

By Camelia Nathaniel

While Muslims in Sri Lanka have always been viewed as being rather standardized in their orthodox Sunni forms of worship, due to recent sociological or theological causes, and a rise of controversial, charismatic Sufi sheikhs in Eastern Sri Lanka, there has been unprecedented religious conflict among Sri Lankan Muslims, especially in the East, which according to law enforcement officials is a cause for concern.

While militant opposition to Sufi teachers in the Eastern towns of Kattankudy and Maruthamunai was initially reported in the 1980s, the violence in the Eastern province has seen a sharp rise since 2004, resulting in the destruction and desecration of several saintly tombs and shrines.

There have been several other incidents of religious tension, not only in the East, between the numerous sects within the Muslim faith that have been reported. For instance, in 2009, a clash in the town of Beruwala between a popular Sufi sheikh and a nearby Tawheed reformist congregation reflects similar religious tensions. These recent conflicts and tensions within the Muslims in the country have been perceived as a security threat to the nation, and, according to the police, these tensions could lead to more complicated national issues if not addressed.

In the Eastern town of Kattankudy, controversial Sufi leader Rauf Maulavi had established his own mosque adjacent to the tomb-shrine of his father several decades previously, and developed a well-funded organization called the All-Ceylon Islamic Spiritual Movement to circulate his books and newsletters in Tamil. In 2006, he was driven from Kattankudy by mob violence.

Tawheed and Wahabism

Today, there are increasing numbers of independent mosques loosely labeled ‘Tawheed’ (the unity of Allah) congregations that are widely alleged to receive funding from missionary “Salafist” or “Wahabi” organizations abroad. The controversial Sufi sheikhs in the large Muslim agricultural towns of the Eastern coastal region claim that fundamentalist preaching may lead some Muslims to deliberately pursue a mystical path and re-examine their taken-for-granted beliefs and traditional local practices to seek the spiritual guidance of a Sufi sheikh. The situation has worsened in certain areas in the Eastern province to such a degree that various dominant factions of Muslims are literally chasing away the minority factions from their areas and there have also been numerous attacks on their shrines and mosques.

According to the trustee of the Devatagaha Mosque in Colombo Reyaz Saley, there are around 800 Sufi mosques within the country, but, he claims, in recent times, more radical Islamic mosques have also come up in various places.

“This has become an issue in the country, as we Muslims have always been a peaceful section of society. My belief, therefore, is that being a Muslim is not about clashing with others, but, if one feels something is right for them, then they should just do it without trying to force others to follow and without trying to clash with others who do not share their views. However, they should not disturb the peace and harmony of the Muslims in the country and they should not disturb the peace in the country. We have been a well respected segment of society and I don’t want any other form of Islam imported into the country.

“In Islam, it is stated that one should not worship statues. But the radicals have now changed that rule where worshiping of shrines and statues have been introduced which is totally against the teachings of our faith, and this is what we are against. With more people going to Saudi Arabia, they believe that whatever they see there is Islam, which is not so. We have to put a stop to these converted Islamic preachers coming into this country. I see a foul play in that as they are funded by the Israelis. When we have proper Maulavis and Ulemas within the country, why do we need to bring in these converts in order to teach us Islam?” he asks.

Radical imports

There is a belief that, with more Muslims traveling to the Middle East for employment, more radical forms of Islam are being imported into the country, causing disputes within the Muslim communities.

During the key note address made by the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at the Defence Seminar last September, he pointed out that some foreign groups are trying to encourage Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves with the global Muslim community, thereby reducing their integration with the local Muslim community.

He said that it is a well known fact that Muslim fundamentalism is spreading all over the world and in this region as well.
“This is a situation that our law enforcement and security forces are concerned about, particularly when there have been instances where extremist elements have been in transit in Sri Lanka prior to arrest and handing over to appropriate authorities. These possibilities, that these extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern. One of the consequences of the increasing insularity amongst minority ethnic groups is the emergence of hard-line groups within the majority community. This, in turn, causes further tension among other communities which leads to a vicious cycle of greater fragmentation of the Sri Lankan identity. Sri Lanka has had enough divisions in the past that ultimately led to a conflict. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from our past and ensure that history is not repeated. This is a critical challenge that faces the entire nation today,” he stated.

Reyaz Saley, on the other hand, claims that the clashes within the Muslim community will not be a security threat to the nation. He said that he disagrees with the concerns of the Defence Secretary and feels that these are issues that need to be addressed within the Muslim community and that Muslim religious leaders in Sri Lanka should take control of the situation and prevent it from getting out of hand.

Violence will not be tolerated

Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana told The Sunday Leader that there are constant clashes between the two main Muslim factions and these clashes show a marked increase in violence in comparison to other minor clashes.

“We have seen it happen in Madampe and also in several locations in the East. If any faction or religion is to set up places of worship anywhere in the country, they should obtain the permission of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana & Religious Affairs. If anyone fails to adhere to these rules, the police will take strict action in the future in dealing with such situations.”

The police spokesman went on to say that such clashes which start off as minor clashes between religious sects will certainly pose a threat to the law and order of the country. He further added that these clashes are a threat to the peace and harmony of the country.
Sri Lanka’s Sunni Muslims or Moors, who make up eight percent of the population, are the country’s third largest ethnic group after the Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils.

The tensions within the Muslims were intensified with the demolition and reconstruction of historic older-style mosques in accordance with imported models of Islamic architecture which clearly indicates a pan-Islamic influence, much to the disapproval of the traditional Muslims of this country.

Furthermore, it is also believed that most of these clashes are also politically motivated and are triggered by the rivaling political factions. Whatever the reasons are, the law enforcement authorities and the security establishments of this country are firm in their stance that no form of violence or uprisings that could impact and jeopardize the security of the country will be tolerated.

8 Comments for “Clashes Between Muslim Sects Concern National Security”

  1. Jamal

    Quran was written by an Arabic poet who was so fluent in this language. His knowledge on world matters was minimal. This book bears several mistakes and errors. The subject was centred on the desert life. It says that in hell, food is Dhari a thorny plant found in desert. Every example was taken from desert. The poet who wrote Thirukural had better knowldge. Quran was the work of mediocre. As per a scientist. the part of the Indian ocean where the flight would have fallen down is with full of mysteries. Todate, it was not explored. There is not a single intelligence piece in Quaran.

  2. Royce Fernando

    islam is evil. It COMMANDS the hate & murder of infidels.
    From the Koran:
    • “Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.” Qor’an 2:191
    • “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch them.” Koran 9:5
    • “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood.” Qor’an
    • “Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” Koran 3:85
    • “It is not fitting for an Apostle that he should have prisoners of war until He thoroughly
    subdued the land….” (Allah insisting Prophet to kill all the prisoners, and should not keep
    any surrendered prisoners alive) …. Quran-8:67—

    • Qur’an:4:94 “Believers, when you go abroad to fight wars in Allah’s Cause, investigate carefully,
    and say not to anyone who greets you: ‘You are not a believer!’ Coveting the chance profits of this
    life (so that you may despoil him). With Allah are plenteous spoils and booty.”
    • Ishaq:398 “Ask them for their help. Thereby make the religion of Islam agreeable to them. And when
    you are resolved in the matter of religion concerning fighting your enemy you will have the advantage.”
    • Qur’an:9:123 “Fight the unbelievers around you, and let them find harshness in you.”
    • Qur’an 8:067 It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land.
    Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise.

    “At the Missouri College where Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis enrolled, a classmate said he often
    remarked that true Muslims don’t believe in violence.”
    Muslims are allowed to lie to infidels about anything, especially about Islam. There are two doctrines
    taught in the Koran which promote lying. One is called al taqiyya (to lie to protect one’s self from
    persecution, emotional harm or physical harm, real or perceived) and kitman (to spread misinformation –
    especially to benefit Islam and to aid its spread).
    So either Nafis isn’t a true Muslim
    (in which case, under Islamic law, he would have been killed for apostasy)
    or he was practicing kitman to aid the spread of Islam.
    Furthermore, his intention to commit acts of terrorism by killing innocent Americans for
    religious reasons completely contradict his claim that “Muslims don’t believe in violence”
    *see Qur’an 9:5 among many other verses in the Koran which mandate violence against all non-Muslims.
    Nice try Associated Press, but no cigar.

  3. jehan

    this article is full of bs. very poorly written.also does not address the muslims
    concern on radical buddhist who have attacked 250 places of worship in sri lanka in 2013

  4. Upul

    If laws are broken, then the law must be enforced. If not, everybody should mind their own business. The problem is that everyone is trying to mind everyone else’s business.

  5. Seyed Yahya Moulana

    Unfortunately there is no difference between catholics and the muslim grave worshippers. The whole truth had been disorted.
    Saints from St Judes and the Saint at the devatagaha mosque they are similar?But one is catholic and the other is a muslim.
    But beware of politicians and opportunists who have divided the entire people of the world.
    ‘”DIVIDE AND CONQUER’ Please do not get misled by ignorant

  6. sadath MB

    Since 1956 Wahabi movements established in Sri Lanka, ever since internal clashes, public resentments started among Muslims themselves. Traditional Muslim in this country do follow teachings of Prophet Muhammd unless Wahabi salafi towheedi faction who follow Ibnu Taimiyya and Abdul wahab’s teachings whom have been outcast-ed as Non-Muslim by Islamic scholars. They entice young Muslim man, woman with picnic or cash assistance and thereby demand them to join their forces is a quite common phenomena in eastern part of this country. These faction receive cash flows from Middle Eastern countries do encourage this ideology which is anti Islamic as viewed by million of Muslim all around the world.

  7. Mohd.

    Certainly; this is a problem and matter of concerns for the National Security? Islam doesn’t have divisions as well as it does not teach violence. There is nothing called extremism but certainly is fundamental.
    Submitting the will to one & only creator, “Allah” the almighty is the only one to worship and to follow the right guidance of “Al-Quran & Sunnah (Life Stories of Prophet Mohamed – PBUH) ” for a better life and life hereafter and it is the sole idea and purpose of being created, nothing other than that is preached in ISLAM!

  8. Shaik Anwar Ahamath

    Why don’t we Muslims take a page from the Christians who now hardly build any churches but devote their funds to help the needy, the homeless and the hungry. We get more than enough funds from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere but it appears we build mosques that are hardly attended or demanded. It is not as if there are no homeless, needy and hungry amongst us.

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