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De-radicalisation of Ideology Is the Best Way to Tackle Islamic Terrorism: Sri Lankan Expert

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Colombo (25/7 – 30.77)

In his book “Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday Massacre: Lessons for the International Community,” terrorism expert Dr. Rohan Gunaratna emphasizes the importance of de-radicalizing Islamic ideology to effectively combat Islamic terrorism. He identifies Wahhabism or Salafism as the root of Islamic terrorism, rapidly spreading worldwide through modern communication tools. Gunaratna warns that merely arresting perpetrators after attacks is insufficient; the focus should be on preventing radicalization in the first place.

The Easter Sunday bombings in April 2019, which claimed over 200 lives, were fuelled by extremist ideologies inspired by events in the Middle East and Islamic extremists in South India. Sri Lanka’s lack of a legal and policy framework to curb radicalization and promote moderation, tolerance, and coexistence contributes to the potential recurrence of such attacks.

To succeed in the de-radicalization process, Sri Lanka must develop a unified approach by avoiding confrontational politics and forging a consensus on national security. Combating religious exclusivism, propagated by Wahhabi and Salafist institutions, is crucial, and both state and community action is required. Gunaratna highlights that the ideology of hatred against other faiths must be dismantled to prevent future attacks.

Rohan Gunaratna says that Islamic terrorism is but an outgrowth of Wahhabism or Salafism, which is spreading rapidly across the world using modern tools of communication.

The Yahapalnaya regime (2015-2019) is criticized for systematically dismantling security and intelligence platforms, leading to vulnerabilities in national security. Political pressure from human rights groups hindered intelligence efforts, contributing to the Easter attacks. The lack of awareness of the security dimension among political leaders and the need for inter-agency collaboration is stressed.

Gunaratna opposes the recent decision by the Sri Lankan government to de-list five of the 11 banned Islamic organizations after lobbying from radical clerics and politicians. He argues that compromising national security for political gain undermines national unity and social cohesion, leading to ethnic and religious hatred and violence. Instead, leaders should integrate ethnic and religious leaders into mainstream national politics to promote harmony and coexistence.

Gunaratna recommends several measures, including screening and certifying clerics, blacklisting hate speakers, developing a comprehensive curriculum for clerics, and regular review of their teachings. He also advocates for a National Security Council, a National Security Act, and a Foreign Interference Act to safeguard the nation from external threats and divisive ideologies.

In conclusion, de-radicalizing Islamic ideology and strengthening intelligence and security capabilities are essential strategies to address the root causes of Islamic terrorism in Sri Lanka. Building social and religious harmony, fostering inter-agency collaboration, and political consensus on national security issues are crucial steps to prevent future attacks and ensure the country’s stability.

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