Notes to the People – Is the US piggybacking on the IS?
Posted on May 9th, 2019

By Sumanasiri Liyanage Courtesy Ceylon Today

‘Fanatics have their dreams wherewith they weave a paradise for a sect.’– John Keats

Some commentators analysed the governmental change on 8 January 2015 as a revolution although no clear explanation was given as to why they deployed the term that refers to somewhat total transformation. My Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines ‘revolution’ as, a time of great, usually sudden, social and political change especially the changing of a ruler or political system by force.” Of course, some of these characteristics may be attributed to the event that happened on 8 January 2015. It changed the ruler or the ruling clique. In a way it was sudden, one day event. However, it is problematic to paint it as a revolution unless those who commented on that might have had great expectation that it would eventually lead to social and political transformation. After nearly four years, it is an adequate time to assess the performance of the post 2015 Government. In other words, it is high time to revalidate the assessment then made by the change agents about the new Government.

Though it is an interesting area to research upon, the task of this piece is narrower and more focused. It poses a simple and single question: Has the January 2015 change had an impact on the Easter Sunday attack? The Easter Sunday attack came as a bolt from the blue. Does it mean that it was a stochastic happening? And a related question: Is there a chance of repeating it again? Some labour spending on finding even tentative answers to those questions may be productive.


National vs International


A TNA Member of Parliament, M. A. Sumanthiran, is reported to have said that Easter Sunday attack may be attributed to absolute disregard of the majority community with the demands and aspirations of minorities. A similar view was held by some members of Colombo civil society giving the impression that had the new constitutional ‘draft’ been enacted there would have been no attack like the one Sri Lanka experienced on Easter Sunday. Is it possible to find a causal linkage between the Easter Sunday attack and the way in which the majority community treats minority communities in the country? We can pose the same question differently and more precisely. Is there a causal relationship between the riots in Beruwala, Dharga Town and in Digana, Teldeniya and the Easter Sunday suicide attacks? Having answered this question in the negative, I do not share the view that there has been no ethnic tension between two communities. 

Contrarily, I claim that these tensions had blown out in many instances in the form of attacks on Muslims and their property by Sinhala extremist thugs. The thesis I submit here is that the Easter Sunday attacks cannot be attributed to local events and should be explained by referring to global developments.    


The suicide bombers belonging to Nation of Thowheed Jama’at, the breakaway group from National Thowheed Jama’at (NTJ) were quite different from the suicide bombers used by the LTTE in its terror attacks. Many LTTE suicide bombers were women who had gone through continuous physical and psychological sufferings due to variety of reasons. Moreover, many of them belonged to a poor and rural social background. On the contrary, the twelve men who blew themselves up on Easter Sunday were not illiterate poor peasants but well educated, highly skilled and economically well-off people. If someone is looking for similarities their background was quite similar to people who were involved in 9/11 attacks in the United States of America. This class and educational background of the Nation of Thowheed Jama’at indicates that this and other Muslim fundamentalist groups do not react and respond to the grievances of the local Muslim population but link themselves with global projects of Muslims. 

Three days after the attack Jihadist militant organisation, Islamic State (IS formerly ISIL and ISIS) had claimed the responsibility of the attack. The IS, is aiming at establishing a worldwide ‘Caliphate’ or a single Islamic government headed by its leader, Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi. So, in order to understand the barbarous attack on Easter Sunday, it is necessary to link it with Islamic radicalisation as a global phenomenon.


Islamic Radicalisation


Islamic radicalisation has three sources. First source is the ideological transformation within Islam. Like all religions, Islam has also been subjected to different readings. Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-92) came forward to defend ultra-orthodox interpretation of Muslim law. He called for a return to the pure-beliefs of olden times. This fundamentalist version of Islam has become the dominant interpretation today in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, just different ideological reading in itself is not a sufficient condition for building of a material force. Some other factors are needed. The second source of radicalisation was the attack of the Muslim countries by the USA and its allies. At the beginning, the USA directly and through Saudi Arabia supported Islamic radical groups against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. However, the United States’ action backfired as the United States’ invasions killed a large number of Muslims in the region. Radical interpretation thus led to a strong anti-imperialist militant movement that Samuel Huntington recognised as an emerging clash of civilisations. He noted that the future would be characterised by Inter-Muslim wars and wars by Muslims against other religions, especially against Christians. The third source that contributed to Islamic radicalisation is Arab money.


While in recent years, the IS has lost its territorial gains in West Asia, it resorted to brutal terrorist attacks in other parts of the world where the United States hegemony prevails. The IS deployed militant Islamic organisations in those countries as agents who carry out deadly missions of violence to those entities. This is what seems to have happened in the case of Sri Lanka. Why Sri Lanka? I think there are two main reasons. First, since 2015, Sri Lanka has gradually moved away from non-aligned foreign policy that it traditionally adhered to. At the same time, the United States is looking for a new territorial base after the International Court of Justice gave a verdict on Diego Garcia Island, that it should be returned to its original inhabitants. We have seen in the past six months the United States and its allies’ presence and engaging in military exercises in Sri Lanka and its waters. So this may have caused the IS to consider Sri Lanka as a proxy target for the United States. Secondly, the IS might have been aware that there has been a lapse and weakening of the security and the intelligence services of the country making Sri Lanka an easy target. Sri Lanka has lost its sovereignty in the last four years, especially, in the sphere of economic and foreign policies. All major policies in those two spheres seem to be taken by foreign agencies.


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seems to be aware about the international dimension of the Easter Sunday attack. Continuing his Government’s foreign policy, he has already proposed more strong links with the United States and its allies. The United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz has revealed the presence of ‘expert teams from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Indo-Pacific Command to provide support to the Sri Lankan-led investigation into the attacks.’


The writer is a retired teacher of political economy.

E-mail: [email protected]

2 Responses to “Notes to the People – Is the US piggybacking on the IS?”

  1. Christie Says:

    8 January 2015 was another Indian job like the 1956 “revolution”.

  2. Nimal Says:

    Not far from the truth.

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