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Wahhabism confronted: Sri Lanka curbs Saudi influence after bombings

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

 

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.

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.

Terrorist organizations, including ISIS – 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.

Saudi diplomats in Colombo have expressed “displeasure” over being targeted during a recent meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena, a Sri Lankan official told Reuters.

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