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The Need To Recognize Islamist Extremism As A Threat To Annihilate Islamophobia

November 24, 2022

Ms. CLCM Patubendige
LL.B (Hons) (Second Class) , Adv. Dip in Trnrsitional Justice Honorary Associate Research Fellow - Institute of National Security  Studies


Easter Sunday AHack 2019 was an unforeseen tragedy in the country where it ruthlessly killed many people. The devastating circumstances gave rise lo Islamophobia, which was in existence insignificantly even prior to the Easter Sunday attack. Islamophobia can also be regarded as an emerging lhreai in the Sri Lankan context which results in the breach of the rights of Muslims. Likewise. lhe uprising Islamist extremism has become a major lhreat both internationally as well as domestically. Hue to Islamist extremist activities, it is evident, the presence ofa fear factor in the general community. Unless lslamist extremist activities are eliminated, annihilating Islainophobia will be unfeasible. Therefore, the research pmblem sheds light on the matter of need lo eliminate lslamisi extremism to annihilate Islamophobia. The research has atmined the objectives and answered regarding lslamist extremism, Islamophobia, the breach of the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka and lslamist extremism as a major cause behind Islamophobia. Research is limited to the Sri lankan context. Research has utilized secorfiai-y sources sucb ss scholarly articles and reports lo arrive at ronclusions. It has gathered primary dala by a survey to Rei lhe perspective of the public. Therefore, research has a mixed approach as it is quantitative as well as quaItWive.

Keywnrds- hreaeh ofrigÄls ofMushms , Islamist exIFemi'sm, Islamophobio, Sn' Lanla

Sri Lanke bas a population of 2 1.8 million. Etfmic Sinhalese constitute 75 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total population with Trim ils at 15 per cent followed by Muslims at 9 per cent. The Sri Lankan Muslim commiinity is scattered acrnss lhe island with the mjority {62We) living outside of the nnrth and east of Sri Lanka where the Sinhalese prednminate and with about 38Wo of the Muslim population living in the Tom il-dominated north and east. In a content where census taking has become poliôcized, it is noteworthy that Muslims have become a mjority in the Ampara District of Eastem Pmvince wfùch is part of this region (Department of Census and Statistics—tri Lanka, 2007). Sri Lanka is miilticulMai, muJliethnic and multi religions. Therefore, il is of no doubi thal violence can occur at any ôme. Controversies occur due lo the nuances; however, it is those nuances which makes the coimtry special.

Sri Lanka was on the verge of celebrating ten years of non-violence aftermath of the gruesome war between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam {LTTE). However. Easter Simday Attack 2019 shattered the national security of the country in a split second. lslamist exoemism is an existing threat in the world. Al present, it has become an emerging threat in Sri Lanka

Law Snidents’ Muslirn Majlis 2021/2022 fi 1

which was there even before the Easter Simday atiack, but not on a greater scale. As a result of lslamist extremism and other factors, ’Islamophobia' came into existence. It is crystalline that there is a plethora of reasons behind lslamist extremism. Reasons including lslamist extremism, radicalization. politicization and extremist ideologies, which are against the sacred true religion, Islam. The research depicts Islamisi extremism as a key reason that makex annihilation of Islamophobia an uphill task. Research has also recommended the steps that can be utilized to annihilate Islamophobia.

Research methodology

The research pmblem was the necessity to recognize Islsmist extremism as a threat to annihilate Islamophobia. In order lo galher infomiation and arrive ct a conclusion for the rmearch, it has utilized both qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Research has used botfi primary as well as    sources. In addition lo the secondary sources available such as books, journal articles, proceedings and reports, research has used primary sources including legislations. Proving the necessity of primary dzta to reach findings. information from an online survey consisting of hundred random individuals were collected This way, research has attempted to quantify societal perception.

Furthermore, the research method used is a mixed-method, whicb is both Qualitative and Quantitative. According to Creswell and Piano Clark {2007: 5) “Mixed methods research is a research design with philosophical assumptions as well as methods of inquiry. As a methodology, it involves philosophical assiunptions lhat guide the direction of the collection and analysis of data and the misture of quaiilative and quantitative data in a singje smdy or series of studies. Its central premise is thal ltte use of quantilalive and qualitative approaches in combination provides a betier understanding of research problems than either approach alone.” Tfie objective of utilizing a mixed-method was, lo gel a broad- based knowledge. In addition to the available literature in the research field, societal perception was extracied to quantity the results. This way, research was able to reach conclusions and recommendations.

Results and discussions

Unlike LTTE, Sri Lanka did nut witness lslamist extremism on a greater scale. It was after the Easter Sunday Atuck 2019 where ’a series of bombs ripped thmugh churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing at least 290 people and injuring hundreds'; terrorism, violence, disharmony and radicalization escalated. Even before the Easter Sunday attack, there were cases reported which were not given due attention and investigations were left without closure. (Sri Lanka attacks: The family networks behind the bombings. 2022), states that, “the clues were there in mid-January, when Sri Lankan police stumbled upon l00kg (2201b) of explosives and 100 detonators hidden in a coconut grove near the Wilpattu national park, which is a remote wilderness in Puttalam district on the west coast of the country”. Police were investigating attacks on statues of Buddha by suspected Islarnist country and four men from a newly formed “radical Muslim group” were
suspecad of those conducts.

There is a plethora of reasons behind lslamist extremism. One such reason is ‘religious radicalization’. The preachings of these are extremist ideologies. This is not what true Islam preaches, ord this practice of radical preachings were criticized by Muslim religious leaders vehemently. Even though religious leaders and communities in the north and east complained and warned about reviving Islamism extremism in Sri Larrka, authorities did not consider it. (Sri Lanka attacks: On the day of Easter Sunday 2019, series of coordinated bomb blasts were taken place. “Mohammed Zahran Hashim, a radical preacher from Kattankudy blew himself‘ up at the Shangri-La Hotel [whom was the mastermind of the attack”. According lo, (Sri Lanka attacks.' The family networks behind the bombings, 2022) “Hashiin’s lither sent him to a religious schenl tier his education. Nevertheless, he soon started questioning the teachers, saying lhey were not following "true Islam”. He was kicked out of the madrasa but continued his religious snidies on his own and later started preaching challenging the established practices of local mosques”. If the authorities i&ntified the threat beforehand. neither Islamist extremism will come into picture nor will Islamophobia would hnve escalated.

As per, (Mannhararu Chatterjee and Ashok, 2021 ) “Political instability in the country... [which was a] perf’eci distraction from the core security and development issues” is a reason for the lslmist extremism The result was a massive security failure which resulted in failing national security and losing the public faith in the government. Another factor for lslamist extremism is communal dissonance. In addition to inter communal dissonance, “The international Jihadist network also fostered radicalizntion process in ltte island’s Muslim community”. According to, (D’flouzn, Bashar, Ramachandran and Gunasingham, 2022), IS-linked propaganda magazines in South Asia, such as the SaM al-Hind (Voice of Hind), continued to glorify the 2019 Easter Sunday to attract followers from around the region. IS boasted about how ltte Sri Lankan militants involved “have ignited the flsmes of jihad by intlicting carnage on the Crusaders”.

According to the sun'ey results {See figure 01 ) for the question on ‘Do you believe there is a tendency of Sri Lankan Muslim youth being mdicalized aftermath of the Easter Sunday Attack'?, 38% selected *yes’ as the answer and 36% were indecisive. Finally, 26% chose ’no’ as the answer. As per the results. indecisiveness hints of a fear factor which the goverment needs to address vigorously. Another reason which facilitated lslamist extremism is terrorist financing. According to (Sri Lanka attacks: The family networks behind the bombings, 2022) “In its early years, the NTJ managed to secure donations from overseas, particularly from the Middle East, India and Malaysia. The money helped the gmup build its own mosque close to the beach in Kattankudy”. Moreover, (BBC news Sri Lanka attacks: The family networks behind the bombings, 2022) stnted, “the process began nearly lhree decades ago. The Walihabi brand of Islam attracted the young and it also had financial backing fmm abroad”, said Mazook Ahamed Lebbe, an official from the Federation of Mosques in tke eastern town of Katiankudy.

In accordance to the survey (See hgure 02). 85%» was of the view that lslamist extrerrhsm is an international lhreal while I 1% chose maybe’ arid 4% chose 'no’. .411 85 % were non—Muslims. This depicts the fear tâcior in non-Muslims. For the question “Do you recognize Islamist extremism as a domestic threat in Sri Lanka?”{See figure 03), 70% picked ‘yes’, 20% chose *maybe’ and
*no’ as the answer. In light of the above findings, it is of utmost importance to prevent and mitigate Islainist extremism. On the other hand. it is also pivotal to mention the victimization ot Muslims. Due to Islamist extremism. guilt free Muslims undergo Islamophobia. which is detrimental. Thus. *Islamist extremism’ has become a popular concept which is inherently evil towards Muslims.

As cited by (Iniliyaz, 2019), Pmfexsor Amir Ali, an Islmic schnlar and an academic at Murdnch University says diat *'Sri Lankan Muslims are self-alienating. Disturbingly though, that seems to be the case, at least amaug some segments; especially Lhose izi Muslim aclaves in the East. Wtien an influential minnrity of the commimity seeks a unique religious identity by alienating themselves from the mainstream society, lhey are bound lo seek solace in the soicier form of an alien variety of religion that challenges their hitherto held local values. Several years back in Aluthgama, there were sectarian clashes nmong Muslims who were divided by lhis invasive ideology”. Due to that reason, exclusivism shnuld not be allowed. InstearL iriclusivisin needs to be promoted. The rationale behind negating exclusivism is it leads to the feeling of superiority which ends up in the individual being less empathetic.

Islamophobia and the breach of the rights of Muslims ln Sri Lanka

According to (Awan and Zenipi, 2020) Working definition of Islamophobia, which is recommended to be adopied by the United Nations as a working definition of Islamophobia siates. “A fear, prejudice and hatred of Muslim or nun-Muslim individuals lhat lead to pmvocalion, hostility and intolerance by means of threatening, haraxsmenl, abuse, inaitemenl and intimidation of Muslims and non-Muslims, both in the online and offline world, motivated by institutional, ideological, polilicai and religious hnslility thal transcends into structural and cultural racism which targets the symbols and markers of being a Muslim.”. According to the survey conducted to determine whether Sri Lanka is facing Islamophobia, the derived results were 62% of the ajority believing that Sri Lonka is facing Islamophobia, 29°Z» chose ‘maybe’ and 9•Zo ot the sample had chosen *no”. (See figure 04) This indicates that Islamophobia is emerging in Sri Lanka and has not yet been well establisbed. This also finely depicts and warns the government and governments to come on potential and existing threats. Looking at it in the Sri Lankan context, especially afier the Easter Simday Attach a sulted in anti-Muslim campaigns such as attempting to ban burqas and boycotting Muslim businesses. The sifiintinn has further escalated causing Muslim businesses to shutter due to the Covid-I 9 pandemic.At a devastating time when we are supposed to help each other and treat each other equally, this discriminatory behaviour is unacceptable.

There is no dnubt that the Sinhala extremist groups are spreading hate and creating mistrust. Some Muslims are declared and viewed as guilly even without a pmper hearing. This is a breach of natural justice.

According to the 1978 Sri Lankan Constitution Article 9, “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duly of the Stale lo pmtect and faster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to all religions, the rights granted by Articles 10 and I4( 1 }{ e)”. Therefore, the rights of‘ Muslims should not be breached. Chapter Ill of the constitution gives an array of fundamental rights. Accordingly, Article 10 states, “Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the fieedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice”. Article 11 states that ’No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ Article 12{ I ) states that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law and 12(2) of Sri Lanka’s Constimtion slates that “no citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any one of such groimds.” Further, Section 12(3) mentions that “No person shai( on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex or any one of such grounds, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to accesx to shops, public restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment and placex of public worship of’ his own religion”. Article I3{4) states thal, “nn person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order ofa competent court”. The fundamental rights mentioned in chapter III explicitly states thal they should not be breached. Therefore, breaching the rights is discriminatory. Discriminatory acts against Muslims therefore should not be entertained

There are limitations placed on certain f\indamental rights by Article I5(7), “The exercise and operation of all the fundamental rights declared and recognized by Articles 12. 13{ I ), 13(2) and 14 shall be subjected to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in tfie interests of national security, public order and the protection of public health or morality or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or of meeting the just requirements of the general welfare of a democratic society”. Hue to those reasons an extremist, terrorist and a radicalized person will be deprived of rights mentioned in 1 5(7), including interests of national security. Furthemiore. Directive Principles of States Policy in article 27(5) mentions that ‘the Stale shall strengthen national unity by promoting co-operation and mutual confidence among all sections o1’the People of Sri Lanka including the racial, religjous, linguistic and other groups and shall take effective steps in the fields of teaching, education end intonation in order to eliminate discrimination and prejudice”. Thus, it is important to prevent Islamophobia. Measures should be adnpted to foster harmony amongst ditt‘erent eihnicities.

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights slates that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. .. to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”. Therefore, hindering religious freedom is inexcusable. Moreover, Article 27 states that “minnrities xhall not be denied the rights, in community with the other members of their group, lo enjoy lheir own culture, to pmfess and practice lheir own religion, or to use their own language”. Therefore, the rights of the Muslims should not be deprived. Sri Laiika has adopted and ratified lhe ICCPR Act by International Covenant on Civil And Political Rights (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 0f2O07. Accordingly, the Sri Lankan act Section 3(1 ) states,“No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hnstility or violence”. Thus, Islamophobia must be prevented.

Islaaaist extremism as a zaajor cause bebind lelazaopbobia

When perusing findings related to Easter Sunday Attack 2019, it is clear that 'Islamist Extremism’ is the main reason. Same as rights of Muslims are breached due to Islamophobia, on the other hand rights of other ethnicities were breached as well as threatened due to Islamist extremists. All the rights aforementioned are applicable to other religious communities and it is clear that none of the rights should be breached, however, subjecied to the limitations. The conducted survey gave multiple causes which resulted in Islamophobia. Participants were able to chense multiple options. {See figure 04) Significant findings derived were, the occurrence of Easter Sunday Attack 2019, the majority selected which is 75°A. Tfie nent mnin cause was Islamist extremist acti vilies, 69%. Bolh findings prove lhat, Islamist extremism as ltte prominent reason. However, several other factors were given including, politically mnlivated reasons, 59•«. Fourthly, 56% chose discriminatory laws as a reason. The fifth factor was Arab influence over Islam, 42%, where rest only gave a minnr count. This social perception highlights the gruesome reality of lslamisi extremism  Therefore, elimination of Islamist extremism will be an uphill tasks but it will result in harmony.

Research then further analysed whether Islamist extremism is a key cause. (See figure 05) The resuJl was the majority of the sample agreed with the fact that Islamist extremism is a key cause resulting in Islamophobia 68% agreed, while 2 1% chose ‘maybe’. The individuals thnt have chosen ‘mybe’ can be ascertained as neutral however compamtively. On the other hand, 1 I% selected *no’ and they were Muslims (See tigure 06). This portrays the importance o1’reconci1iation. Tfie fear factor present in non- Muslims are derived due to Islamist extremism, which is a key reason. Therefore, it is of utmosl importance to prevent terrorism, extremism and radicalizalion. Thus, it is crystal clear thal all are victims in the present context. It is not only majority of non-Muslims wbo face fear due to Islamist extremism, but also Muslims who are criticized and generalized as extremists.

Easler Sunday atiack was the recenl, ruthless, terrorist and exoemist activity which escalated Islamophobia. For thet reason, the survey gave the respondents the opportunity of selecting the reason/ reasons behind lhe Easler Sunday attack. (See figure 07) Accordingly, majority of ltte respondents chose lack of responsibility of the goverment, Natiorei security failure and Islamist extremism. The percentages are, 76a». 72% and 64•e respectively. One of the nnticeable findings were the lack of responsibility of the government and national security failure. This displays the government’s liilure in analyzing current and prospective threats and preventing and eliminating them. For the reasons mentioned above, it is evident thst Islamist extremism is a key iictor which causes Islmophobia. Various steps can be utilized to eliminate lslamophnbia by preventing violence.


Afier analysing the data gathered by the survey and by perusing the literature available, it is clear that Islainist extremism is a domestic as well as an mternational threat. Islmisi extremism has resulted in Islamophobia, whiéh Sri Lanke faces without a doubt. Non-Muslims fear lslaniiil extremism and the Situation escalated with the Easter Sundny attack 2019. On the other hand, Muslims are victimized because the majority of tfiem are not extremists and guilt free. Out of the causes discussed in the paper, Islamist extremism is a key cause for Islamophobia. Therefore, in order to annihilate Islamophobia, it is pivotal to eliminate Islamopbobia and prevent the breach of rights of Muslims.


In order to derive realistic'reconimendations. respondents were given the liberty to choose multiple factors thal wright facilitafe the annifûlation of islamophobia. (See figure 08). 74% .chose revisiting laws by amending or repealing them or strengthening laws, 55% chose communily engagement by way of de- radicalîzation, 46% chose rehabilitation of terrorisls, 7&e mentioned Public awareness, 46% chose convicting terrorisls, 67% chose preventing hate speech and false speech, 66% preventing terrorist financîng, 52% mentioned creating a knowledge sharing platform among governinent agencies and privale entities and 56s» chose monitoring social media and penalizing hôte speech. In additioru il is also imperative to monitor and regulate rriadrasas and ensure inclusive educaöon. This will be a good strategy tö prevent polarizntion. Finally yet importantly, preventing Sinhala eztremism and Buddhist extremism is imperative .to accomplish nonviolence.

Tables aod figuzes

Figure 01

Do you belleve there ls e terdency of Srl Lenken fHucIIm youth belng redlcalized aftermarh où Uæ





Figure 02

Do you recognize Islamist extremism es an internationel threat?

1 00 responses

Figure 03

Do you recognize Islamist extremism as a domestic threat in Sri Lanka?

Figure 04

Do you believe Sri Lanka is facing Islamophobia?













Figure 05

what are the reasen behind Islamophobia?

Figure 06

Do you recognize Islamist extremism as a key cause resu1ting ls!amphobia?

Figure 07

What are the causes behind the Easter Sunday Attack 2019


Figure 08

What are the measures that can be taken to eliminate and mitigate lslamphobia





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