Sri Lanka: A New Hub for Islamic Extremism?

Sri Lanka is emerging as a new hub for trans-national Islamic extremism in South Asia.
Thirty years of civil war, faltering economy and third world politics are playing their part in the emergence Sri Lanka as a hub of trans-national Islamic extremism.
Sri Lanka has been at civil war for most part of the past three decades. The main protagonists are the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) dominated by 'Sinhala' speaking Buddhists -identified as ethnic Sinhalese- and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) dominated by 'Tamil' speaking Hindus and Christians -identified as ethnic Tamils-.

Around 7% of Sri Lanka's population are Muslims. Majority of these speak the 'Tamil' language but identify themselves as ethnic Muslims. Sri Lanka's Muslims are aligned to the GoSL, and are strongly opposed to the LTTE. Around 50, 000 Muslims claim that they were driven out of their homes in the north of the island by the LTTE.

Over the years, Sri Lanka's Muslims have been canvassing a number of Muslim countries to support the GoSL against the LTTE. In 2001, when the LTTE launched an offensive towards the northern Jaffna peninsula, putting the lives of around 50, 000 GoSL soldiers at risk, Pakistan intervened by providing sophisticated multi-barrel rocket launchers to the GoSL forces to drive back advancing LTTE forces. Alongside Iran, Pakistan is one of the largest suppliers of military equipment and economic donors of Sri Lanka.

'Close relationships' between Sri Lanka and Muslim states such as Pakistan and Iran are two way affairs. All across Welikanda in the east of the island and Puttalam to the west, there are evidences of 'Jihadi' training camps where youths from surrounding countries are undergoing arms training. Recent incidence of 'Sharia' influenced violence against 'unislamic activities' across some parts of the island, and the inaction of the GoSL police, are evidence that the GoSL is a party to and a beneficiary of the growing radicalisation of Muslims in Sri Lanka.

10 March 2008