Posted on June 14th, 2019

Kamalika Pieris

There is deep hostility between Wahhabi movements and the traditional (Sufi) groups, reported Faslan and Vanniasinkam. They fight over who is the better Muslim and who are the real followers of Prophet Mohamed. They each consider themselves as the only real Muslims, the rest are non- Muslims.

Families, including children were also trained to think on those lines. In Kattankudy, for   instance, Wahhabis publicly ridiculed the practices of traditional groups and in their homes, families gathered around the television to watch CDs of these public statements and laugh at the non-Muslim groups, reported Faslan and Vanniasinkam. 

 The Wahhabi were insulting towards the traditional groups and their saints, said Faslan and Vanniasinkam. Wahhabi groups were openly critical of traditional Muslim practices. Wahhabis object to Kanduri (celebrating feasts), Kodiyetram (hoisting of the mosque flag) and Maulid celebrations (singing songs in praise of Prophet Mohamed). Wahhabi say these are not part of orthodox Islam, but borrowings from Hindu culture.

The Wahhabi (Thowheed) groups tried to disrupt Muslim worship. Thowheed adherents started coming into our mosques, said Azath Sally. They became a nuisance to us. They have a practice of rotating their fingers disturbing all other worshippers. The way traditional Muslims pray is different. Fights have broken out as a result of this, he said.

The sighting of the new moon for Ramazan  is an important matter for Muslims.  It was turned into a major cause of conflict between Muslim groups. Usually the ACJU decides when the moon was sighted. The ACJU decision was opposed by the Wahhabi (Thawheed) groups, said Faslan and Vanniasinkam.

This issue was given publicity in the newspapers.  I recall reading that Muslim leaders had come to sight the new moon, could not see it and gone home, or some such thing. I also recall a request, in the papers, that Muslims should look out for the new moon and inform the Muslim leaders, or something like that. I cannot remember when this happened.

The hostility between Wahhabi and traditional Muslims has led to violent conflict. The two rival groups have clashed physically.A Sufi cleric was killed at Valachchenai in July 2009 In some instances, the conflict was instigated by the Thawheed Jamaat but perpetrated by traditional Sufi groups, said Faslan and Vanniasinkam.

Wahhabi and traditional Muslims have destroyed each other’s mosques. The Wahhabis destroyed a mosque at Ukuwela in Feb 2006 and a mosque in Thihariya in May 2009. A Sufi shrine at Anuradhapura was destroyed in 2013. There were also plans to destroy the Daftar Jailany shrine in Balangoda.

The traditional Muslims hit back. There was a clash at Madampitiya between Wahhabi and Jamaate Islami in 2014 resulting in stones being thrown at a Thawheed centre in Madampitiya for two hours.  A Wahhabi mosque in Beruwala, Masjidur Rahman, was burned in 2008, leading to two deaths, 40 people injured, and 132 arrests. The traditional Muslims (Quadri Sufi) complained that the Wahhabi mosque had accused their Bukhari Thakkiya mosque of being disbelievers” and concealers of the truth” (qafirun) continuously in the eight years since the Wahhabi mosque was inaugurated.

Kattankudy in Batticaloa district,  is home to a variety of Muslim groups.  All Islamic groups and movements are represented in Kattankudy. Wahhabi hostility,    violence and desire to kill was clearly demonstrated in Kattankudy.  Kattankudy has been a centre of continuing violence, and all agree that the violence was caused by National Thawheed Jamat, (NTJ) led by Zaharan.

The Wahhabi specifically targeted two movements, Thareekathul Mufliheen and the Rauf group. NTJ has been very confrontational in its attack of the Abdur Rauf group, criticizing their practices and teachings at public platforms, conducting public debates and distributing slanderous DVDs, reported the media   NTJ are considered to be responsible for the violent evacuation of members of the Abdur Rauf group from Kattankudy in 2000 and 2006.

All Island Tharikathul Mufliheen, a Sufi sect founded by K. S. M. Abdulla, called (Rah) and also known as Pahilvan from Maruthamunai. (Rah) and the members of his order were subject to gun and grenade attacks, and other physical aggression, as well as threats.

Thareekathul Mufliheen opened a Meditation Centre at Kattankudy in 1996. Wahhabis promptly tried to burn it down. In October, 2004, 500 Wahhabis, organized as Jihadis again set the Meditation Centre ablaze, destroying its library, along with homes and businesses owned by Sufis. Financial loss to the injured parties was considerable, and one Sufi was shot and killed while another was wounded by gunfire, reported the media. Police arrested eight suspects, but released them later. No charges were framed.

The Meditation Centre and headquarters were rebuilt and a birthday celebration for the founder of the order was held on July 25, 2006, with 15,000 people provided free food. On or around this time, a group of Wahhabi indoctrinated youngsters went   rampaging in public attacking members of the All Island Tharikathul Mufliheen, reported the media.

(Rah) died on December 6, 2006. The Jihadis, armed with lethal weapons, rioted after the death of Abdullah (Rah), bringing life in Kattankudy to a halt by a general work stoppage (hartal). Schools, government and private offices, banks and businesses shut down and some banks and shops were looted and burned, reported the media.  

Wahhabi preachers from the Thawheed network and the armed Jihad” incited the local politicians and local clerics, ( Jamiathul Ulama Kattankudy,  Muslim Federation of Mosques, and  Urban Council of Kattankudy) to oppose (Rah’s) burial according to Islamic rites, in the Meditation Centre, as he was a supposed apostate.

Another member of the Sufi order  died on December 1, 2006, was buried that day, and on December 2 was exhumed by Wahhabis on the same pretext and laid out on the soil. According to the Wahhabis and their accomplices, apostates” could not be buried in Kattankudy.

On December 13, 2006 Urban Council, Kattankudy ordered the dismantling of the minaret at the Meditation Centre, as an unauthorized structure”. Police prevented commencement of the demolition, but Wahhabi fanatics interfered with the officers. Three rioters were shot and killed. A police post and police vehicle were assaulted.

On December 15, 2006, members of the Urban Council joined a Wahhabi mob that invaded the Meditation Centre and knocked down the minaret, removing the body of Abdullah (Rah), either burning or reburying it in a location yet unknown. The houses of 117 Sufis were leveled by fire. Many were threatened and fled the district. Two were injured, and one lost an arm.

Sri Lanka Supreme Court  gave an order in 2008, that 200 members of Thareekathul Mufliheen be allowed to return to their homes in Kattankudy and practice their beliefs in freedom. This was obstructed by armed Jihad members, reported the media.

There were other NTJ attacks in Kattankudy. On December 17, 2006, over 100 houses of Sufi followers were destroyed by fire and Wahhabis were blamed. In July 2009 there were clashes between Sufis and Wahhabis and two people were killed and 40 injured. In 2017, several people  were severely injured in a clash between Thawheed Jamat and the Sufis. The groups attacked each other with swords and knives on  a Friday during a lecture. Those attacked lodeged a complaint with the police.

By 2017, the residents of Kattankudy had had enough. A large number of Muslims took to the streets in March 2017, to protest the recent clash while demanding that the groups with the radical mindset leave and let the residents live in peace. Both old and young, including men and women holding placards demanded that ‘Wahabi terrorism’ stop,  reported the media. We want peace, we do not want Wahabi terrorism,” the demonstrators said.

There is evidence to show that Muslims had been concerned about these matters  for some time.In 2014 a group called the “Peace Loving Moderate Muslims in Sri Lanka” made a public protest on the matter. They sent a letter dated 14.3.14 addressed to Secretary General of the United Nations, UN Human Rights Council and to the President of Sri Lanka. They also released the text to the media.

Peace-Loving Moderate Muslims”  said “This movement [NTJ] has fast become a cancer within the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. Preaching and practicing religious intolerance, exerting pressure on other Islamic movements, making it compulsory to attend mosques, making it compulsory to learn the Arabic language, making the implementation of Sharia law above the civil laws of Sri Lanka, forcing females to wear the burka and the construction of mosques and madrasas in many parts of the country are some of these activities. This movement which started in the Eastern Province has now spread to many different parts of Sri Lanka.

“We fear that these activities, if left unchecked by the authorities, would create a situation in which the majority of Muslims in Sri Lanka, already under threat and harassment from this extremist minority, may have to face the wrath of other religions, It is tragic that the majority of Muslims who are essentially peace-loving are to pay for the actions of this minority,” the statement concluded.

Another group, the  Ex Muslims of Sri Lanka” (sic) issued a statement in March 2017.  Sri Lankan Muslims are being indoctrinated with a fundamentalist, hateful and terrorist ideology by groups, organizations and individuals who are receiving foreign funds.  They are doing so under the excuse of Islamic Missionary”, said the Ex Muslims of Sri Lanka (EMSL)

EMSL said that one of the groups involved in violence is a pro ISIS – Islamic State organization, with members and supporters all around the Island. The activities and preaching of such organizations have become a threat to the existence of ex Muslims around Kattankudy area,”. The government and the defense authorities should pay strict attention and take serious actions against the activities of the foreign-funded Islamic groups, organizations, individuals and other elements in Sri Lanka, which directly and indirectly preach and support terrorism, fundamentalism and hatred among Sri Lankan Muslims.

The incident that took place between two Muslim factions on March 10 in Kattankudy indicates that extremist groups are ready to spread their terror continued EMSL. They are causing a crisis of faith for Muslims. Some of them have started teaching their doctrine of fundamentalism,” an EMSL member said. They have become a threat to the existence of ex-Muslims in Kattankudy. The general public including the peace loving Muslims should give their fullest support and cooperation to the government and the defense authorities by providing all the information and details known to them regarding the above matter.”

Ex Muslims of Sri Lanka” called on the government and the defense authorities to take firm measures to free the nation completely from radical Islamic terrorist elements. They said they wanted the government to bring to an end all activities carried out by foreign-funded Islamic groups, organizations, individuals and related elements in Sri Lanka. (Continued)

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