The Clash of Civilisations and Hate at the Heart of 21/4 in Sri Lanka

Michael Roberts

My thoughts are organised in point-form in order to assist succincttness.

A = I recall seeing a news item a day or so back which indicated that Sri Lanka was in the process of acquiring sophisticated cyber-technology from China in order to pursue its intelligence work the better. Quite logical that — though late in the day.

Mecca at Hajj Pilgrims at St Peter’s Basilica

B = Wahhabi thinking captivated a few young men in Indonesia and drew them into the fight in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Some of these returnees were at the core of the Jemaah Islamiyah cells in Southeast Asia in 2001/02 – a network “dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic state in Southeast Asia” and most notoriously associated with the Bali atrocities of 25 October 2002.[1] When I dabbled in this material about 15 years back,[2] I wondered then HOW it was that Sri Lankan Muslims had not been drawn into the Taliban struggles. Nevertheless, anyone reading Ameer Ali’s articles will realise that radicalization was taking root from the 1980s and that the conflicts in the Middle East stimulated the emergence of the jihadist cells who launched the 21/4 attacks.[3]

C = This line of activity was not an overnight development and those who seized on the argument that it was a retaliation for the Christchurch Massacre by a lone ranging White racist need to have their heads examined by specialist doctors in idiocy.

D = It is now known that one of the 21/4 jihadists, viz. Abdul Latif Jamil Mohammed, had studied in Australia and UK. It is instructive, here, to study the fervent jihadist protest mounted in London by some Muslims in March 2018 – apparently Sri Lankan Muslims denouncing the Sinhala Buddhist attacks on Muslims after a clash at Digana in that month.[4] The vehemence of their outcries and placards suggest a capacity to engage in violence of the type they were castigating. This video item is essential background data for those deciphering the Sri Lankan atrocities.

Scenes from Alutgama, June 2015

E = This piece of evidence suggests that the attacks on Muslims wrought by Sinhalese extremists after incidents at Alutgama in June 2014 and after a traffic contretemps at Digana which led to a death of a Sinhala man in March 2018 provided an impetus for Zahran Hashim’s deadly corps of killers to plan their suicidal operation in the cause of Allah over several months and to execute their concerted strikes on Easter  Sunday.

F = All this suggests that the phrase “never the twain shall meet” cannot be applied as an assessment in this field. Extremisms feed on each other; redound and rebound off each other. Sinhala chauvinists need to look inward and reflect on their contribution towards the recent ideological confrontations and the process of eye-for-an-eye that is reverberating through the island.

G = Do the weight of points E and F above mean that the Zahran Hashim acts of terror would not have taken place if there had been no attacks on the local Muslims after the Alutgama and Digana incidents? Wrong. Wholly wrong. To reach that conclusion is to misread contemporary Wahhabi thinking. The Wahhabi jihadists are warriors on the road of sacrifice in the cause of Allah – not just warriors, but zealous warriors. In brief, they are zealots. Look at Zahran’s face as he preaches. Look at Mohammed Attta’s demeanour in face.[5] These blokes were wholly committed beings – thus deadly beings.

H = And so too were their faithful wives and followers. Proof? Several of these women were ready to blow themselves and kindred up. Proof: the detonation of a suicide bomb by one wife at Dematagoda killing herself, her children and three policemen. Here, then, was another highly significant act of “sacrificial devotion” for one’s cause – the jihadist cause advocated by the Wahhabi.

I = SL Army chief Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake has recently indicated (that is, conjectured?) that the Zahran strike force “had discussed a range of possible targets and agreed to attack the tourist hotels and churches on Easter Sunday, in order to kill many foreigners and Catholics, to gain international attention[6]

J = This reasoning suggests that they were pursuing the cause of ISIS as the latter was closing ground in Iraq and Syria. The argument is plausible. But, in conjecture, I suggest that it is secondary to the main goals of those driven by Wahhabism: their struggle is against the bastions of Western civilization. These symbolic bastions are the Papacy, Christianity and Western capital wealth. The choice of Easter Sunday was bot happenchance. It was, I assert, central to their Islamic jihadist faith … and its HATE.


Ameer Ali, ACL  2009a “The Transformation of Muslim Politics in Sri Lanka and the Growth of Wahhabism from the 1980s,” 5 May 2009,

Ameer Ali, ACL 2019b “How Extremisms have fed off Each Other in Sri Lanka, 1950s-to-2019 … and still proceeding,”  6 May 2019,

Barton, Greg 2005 Jemaah Islamiyah: radical Islam in Indonesia, Singapore: Singapore University Press, ISBN 9971-69-323-2.

Bastians, Dharisha 2014 “Death toll rises to 4 from Aluthgama riots,” Daily FT, 18 June 2014

Bergen, Peter I. 2001 Holy War Inc. Inside the World of Osama bin Laden, New York, The Free Press.

Cook, David 2006 Understanding Jihad, University of California Press.

Cook, David 2015 ‘Jihad’, ‘Martyrdom Operations’, and Mohammed Atta’s Injunction in the “last Night’, before 9/11,12 May 2015,

De Munck, Victor 1993 Seasonal Cycles: A Study of Social Change and Continuity in a Sri Lankan Village

De Munck, Victor 2005 Islamic orthodoxy and Sufism in Sri Lanka,”  “January 2005, Anthropos: International Review of Anthropology and Linguistics 00(2):401-414.

Fernando, Asiri 2019 “The Thinking and Operational Capacity of the 21/4 Jihadists,” 14 May 2019,

Hodge, Amanda 2009 “Sri Lanka Suicide Bomber studied in Australia,” 24 April2009,

Holt, John 2018 “John Holt rebuts Gerald Peiris. A Focus on Buddhist Extremism,” 30 December 2017,

Jeyaraj, DBS 2019 “The Skirmish at Sainthamaruthu and the Suicidal Deaths of Some Wahhabi Jihadists -Jeyaraj as Investigative Journalist,”  2 May 2019,

Jones, Sidney 2003 “Personal and Financial Ties Between al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah,” 3 September 2003,

Peiris, Gerald H. 2017 A Study of Contemporary Buddhist-Muslim Relations in Sri Lanka,” 14 September 2017,

Roberts, Michael 2007 “Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol 30: 857-88.

Roberts, Michael 2019 “Slippages: Where ‘Muslim’ is An Ethnic Label as well as a Religious Typification,”  3 May 2018,

Sri Lanka Guardian 2019 “Sri Lanka Army: Muslims officers work towards deradicalization,” work.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+srilankaguardian%2FIGKI+%28Sri+Lanka+Guardian%29

Yalman, Nur  2017 “Wahhabi Ideology is the Root of Islamic Extremism,” 8 October 2017,

Zahrah Imtiaz, D.B. Subedi, and M. Sarvananthan 2019 “After the Easter Sunday Terro: The way forward,” 3 May 2019, ………………………, M. M. 2018 “Sinhala-Muslim Violence in Lanka: An Appeal and Allegations from a Muslim Professional,”  13 March 2018,


[1] See Jones 2003 and Barton 2005.

[2] I spent about two months with the South Asian Studies Department at the NUS in Singapore circa 2003/05 (cannot place date) and dabbled in comparative material

[3] See Ameer Ali 2019a and 2019b

[4] As far as IK can ascertain this incident was in March 2018 and not after the clashes between Muslims and Sinhalese at Alutgama in

[5] Mohammed Atta was the operational commander of the Al Qaida team that effected 9/11 in New York I September 2001. He probably drafted the strict instructions marked “The Last Night (see David Cook 2015).

[6] See Asiri Fernando 2019.


Filed under accountability, Al Qaeda, atrocities, authoritarian regimes, economic processes, ethnicity, fundamentalism, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, Indian traditions, Islamic fundamentalism, legal issues, life stories, meditations, politIcal discourse, power politics, propaganda, racist thinking, riots and pogroms, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, suicide bombing, terrorism, trauma, unusual people, vengeance, world events & processes, zealotry

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