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Wahhabism confronted: Sri Lanka curbs Saudi influence after bombings




A boy rides a bicycle while looking at an army soldier stationed in front of a Sufi mosque in Kattankudy, Sri Lanka, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandra Ulmer


Sri Lanka is moving to curtail Saudi Arabian influence, after some politicians and Buddhist monks blamed the spread of the kingdom’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam for planting the seeds of militancy that culminated in deadly Easter bomb attacks.


On April 21, nine Sri Lankans blew themselves up in churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 250 people and shocking the country a decade after its civil war ended.


Sri Lanka has since arrested a Wahhabi scholar and is poised to take over a Saudi-funded school. The government also says it will monitor previously unchecked money flows from donors including prominent Saudi families to mosques on the Indian Ocean island.


“Nobody will be able to just make donations now,” said Muslim cabinet minister Kabir Hashim, who has urged Muslim communities to look at how radical ideas could have spread. He said the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs would oversee donations.


The outcry in Sri Lanka is the latest sign that Wahhabism, which critics deem a root cause of the jihadist threat, is under pressure internationally.


Jihadist organizations, including Islamic State - which claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings - follow an extreme interpretation of Islam’s Salafi branch, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.


Saudi Arabia rejects the idea that Wahhabism is problematic and defends its record by pointing to the detention of thousands of suspected militants. Riyadh in June sent back five Sri Lankans allegedly linked to the Easter attacks.



Reuters

5th July 2019

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