COLOMBO: Moderates among the Muslims in Sri Lanka are expressing deep concern over a massive and determined Saudi petro dollar backed effort to spread the extremist Wahabi ideology among Muslims in the island nation, who have traditionally been a peace loving and tolerant community.
Sufi leaders, who have taken up the cause on behalf of the moderates, told Express here on Sunday, that there was a real danger of Wahabism preparing the ground for Islamic terrorist activity in Lanka. This could reach India also, the warned.
SAUDI MONEY: The Sufis see a Saudi hand behind it all. “The Saudis are spending US$87 billion per year on spreading Wahabism across the globe,” said Riyyaz M Sally, president of the Islamic Solidarity Front (ISF). He pointed out that there was a proliferation of mosques promoting Wahabism in the island and most of these were unauthorised.
“The Wahabis (who belong here to a variety of organisations like the Tawheed Jamat and Jamat e-Islami) give money to a poor Muslim to take a house in a locality, convert it into a Madrasa and then into a mosque. Most of these mosques are not registered as registration has to have the approval of three other mosques in the locality, a requirement which the promoters will not be able to fulfil. Only 35 of the 300-odd mosques in the island are registered,” Sally said.
Scholarships are given to young Lankan Muslims to go to religious institutions in Saudi Arabia. They are sent back to spread Wahabism. Funds are no problem.
STATE APPARATUS INFILTRATED: If the authorities are turning a blind eye to this, it is because the state apparatus has been infiltrated by Wahabis over the last 15 years, says Sally. He said the three members of the reconstituted Waqf Board were Wahabis, who he feared, would start using the mosques’ assets for promoting Wahabism.
According to fellow Sufist Ahmad Shah Maulavi, the Wahabists have infiltrated the Muslim broadcast section of the state owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). “Ninety eight percent of the participants and staffers in the Muslim section are Wahabi and use the programmes to propagate its tenets,” Maulavi said. The Wahabists run private unlicensed radio stations too, as a recent seizure showed.
SCHOOL CURRICULUM: With the Wahabis entrenched in power, the prescribed texts for Islamic studies in the English medium Ilmi international schools are being revised to rid them of any reference to variations in Islamic laws and practice. These are substituted by the rigid Wahabist thought. “References to the four Madhhab or schools of law, namely, Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali have been steadily shortened over time and substituted by Wahabi laws,” the Maulavi said.
FOMENTING CONFLICT: Wahabism was creating animosity not only towards the non-Muslims but also towards Muslims, the Sufists said. “The Wahabis force others in their family to follow them.They attack mosques of the Sufi sect and have attacked Sufis leaders with guns (in the Eastern province). The incorrectly interpret Jihad as a war against non-Wahabis and non-Muslims, while it is a battle against one’s ego,” Ahmad Shah said.