40 Lankans in IS

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Published by : CT Web 2016-04-24 06:29:55

Author of Inside Al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror Dr. Rohan Gunaratne revealed in an exclusive interview with Ceylon Today that there are 40 Sri Lankans fighting the IS war and while some perished in action others want to return to Sri Lanka claiming that they have been misled by IS with promises of a good life.

"What is worrying is that already about 40 Sri Lankan Muslims have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join IS and some have been killed in action," Dr Gunaratne, Professor of Security Studies at the Nanyang Technological University and Head of Singapore's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said.

The real threat to Sri Lanka is long-term and strategic, 'if' the IS ideological extremism and violence replace the Sri Lankan traditional and local form of Islam, which is very peaceful, then in the future, Sri Lanka will suffer from both extremism and terrorism from IS and its affiliated groups, he said.

"Most of the Sri Lankans who have travelled to Syria and Iraq want to come back. They believe that they were misled by the propaganda of Islamic State to travel to Syria and Iraq. They were promised housing and monthly income, all comforts besides support for their family members. The IS poster that refers to ice cream and good education and happy living is not what they experience. They are in fact experiencing power cuts, shortage of food and constant violence and counter-violence," he added.
He urged the Sri Lankan Muslim leaders to work through their religious organizations and the media to spread the message that IS is neither Islamic nor a State and that the Muslim youth should not be trapped by IS propaganda.

He noted that the small number of Muslims who have travelled to Syria and Iraq, if and when they return, they should be rehabilitated. If they are not, they will present a threat to Sri Lanka as they will want to impose IS type rulings including beheadings and their version of Islamic law.
He added "the returnees of Syria and Iraq will feed others their misguided opinions and ideas thus influencing others to be like them."

He noted that the Sri Lankan Government is well informed of those who have travelled overseas and also the development that has taken place in the Syria and Iraq theatre. He said, Sri Lankan security and intelligence services have kept abreast of developing threats. "What is important now is for the Muslim organizations to take the leadership and to work very closely with the Ministry of Defence and other government agencies responsible for the security and stability of the country."
He suggested that the government should ensure that Sri Lankan students do not travel to conflict zones such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq for education. With regard to Saudi Arabia he said, a decision must be taken at government level upon advice of the Muslim leaders whether the students should be sent to Saudi Arabia.

He also criticized that successive Sri Lankan Governments have failed to prevent the involvement of Buddhist, Christian and Muslim leaders in politics. It is imperative for Sri Lanka to include in its Harmony Act that religions should not be exploited to advance in political aims and objectives.

He pointed out extremist groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) have made inflammatory statements against the Muslim community and eventually such statements will harm Buddhists and Buddhism.



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