COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Minister of Justice, Wijedasa Rajapakse, said in parliament here on Friday, that there is information that 32 Sri Lankans, belonging to four families, have joined the Islamic State (IS) movement in Syria, the local media reported.
The Minister did not give details but assured the House that there will be absolutely no room for religious extremist activities in Sri Lanka “starting from today.”
In July 2015, Sri Lankan media reported that one Sharfaz Shuraih Muhsin alias Abu Shureih Seylani (37), an alleged Sri Lankan recruit to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had died in an air strike in Syria on July 12, 2015, the media reported at that time.
The reports said that Muhsin had told his family prior to his departure for the Middle East war zone, that he was going to Turkey to do relief work among the victims of the war.
Hilmy Ahamed of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) had told The New Indian Express at that time that Muhsin’s family appears to have believed him because he had done relief work in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck the island in December 2004.
While the immediate family was OK with his going for relief work, his in-laws were opposed to it, even if it was only for relief work. The family had come to know about his death in combat only after someone sent an ISIS video about it,” Ahamed said.
A student of the prestigious Trinity College in Kandy and a karate instructor, Muhsin was the Principal of a Muslim-run “International” (or English medium) school in Galewela in Kandy district in Central Lanka till December 2014.
According to Mohammad Sahabdeen Mohammad Samir, the Principal of the school where Muhsin worked, he had told the school that he was going to Mecca on pilgrimage but never came back.
A married man, Muhsin was living in Colombo before he supposedly left for Turkey. He was passionate about Islamic law and had got an LLB in Sharia law from the International Islamic University in Pakistan, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ajith Perera said. He acquired the name Abu Shureih Seylani after joining the ISIS. Seylani means a man from Seylan, the Arabic term for Ceylon or Sri Lanka.
The MCSL condemned Muhsin’s involvement with the ISIS and said that the ISIS’s actions are a gross violation of the Sharia as well as Humanitarian Laws. “Islam is a religion of mercy and tolerance that totally prohibits the taking of innocent lives. There is no theological basis for any crimes to be committed through terrorism or violence,” it said in a letter to President Mithripala Sirisena.
The MCSL called upon the President to conduct a thorough investigation, punish all who may have violated the laws of the land. Ahamed, however, added that Lankan Muslims believe that the ISIS is a creation of the US and Israel to tarnish the image of Muslims.
In July this year, Indian media reported that two Keralites, Fathima (Nimisha) and Eeza (Bexon Vincent), the couple from Kerala who have supposedly joined the Islamic State, were in Sri Lanka for over two months before disappearing.
According to Indian intelligence agencies, Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the preferred venues for Islamic studies, mainly for the Salafi sect committed to Wahabism. It is also an easy access destination for Indians as they can visit without major security concerns.