Sri Lanka, Isis, New Zealand discussed on Brian Lehrer
The story of out of Sri Lanka really change from yesterday morning to this morning yesterday. At this time, the thirties were saying it was a horrific, but narrowly focused terrorist attack that was a flare up of a decades-old local conflict now to being described as an ISIS link revenge attack for the mosque massacres in New Zealand that at least is the word from government officials in Sri Lanka. If true, it suggest a new kind of radical Islamist versus radical white supremacists. Terrorist war fuelled on both sides by global social media networks with both sides targeting innocent civilians in that houses of worship from New Zealand to Sri Lanka to Pittsburgh. How does that cycle of violence get ended? There are also questions now about how much the Sri Lankan government knew in advance about the potential for just this sort of attack and fail to act. Act on that intelligence. Joining me now Washington Post reporter, Ivanka ROY Moore and Alan Keenan Sri Lanka senior analyst based in London for the International Crisis Group, which works to prevent war and maximize piece Allen, and he Sean thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to WNYC. Thanks for having me. What's you understanding as of now of who was responsible and with what motivations? Well, Sri Lankan officials have pointed to to local groups operating in insulin that we really hadn't heard that much about in the past. And who we'd never expected could carry out an assault of this scale in the past. There are suggestions of as you indicated links to Joe this networks overseas their suspicions right now that at least some of these people involved in the attacks, including a number of people that the government has since arrested made trips overseas. And so we're seeing slowly evidence of some kind of transnational plot. But it's very early at this stage as you suggested earlier, one cabinet minister has come out and pointed the finger to this broader kind of global conflict saying that this attack was done as a revenge attack because of New Zealand, but the prime minister today as well was a bit more circumspect saying that we don't really know yet. But there is a suspicion the those who perpetrated this assault, and we're doing it in this kind of as you said really extremist global narrative further to that. I heard an analysis that while the group that is believed to be responsible is an obscure local one apparently concerned with local conflicts and that was the going assumption as of yesterday the nature of the attacks on closer inspection spectacular. Multiple on the same day aimed directly at churches and higher end. Hotels has all. The much of something more like ISIS or al-qaeda. Does it look like that to you? It certainly it seems to be something that was carried out with a degree of sophistication and logistical planning that I'm sure experts like Alan also in the line would would would agrees. He must have had some kind of external assistance or coordination. But at this point, we don't have enough evidence yet to either prove or disprove these apparent claims of ISIS involvement or some kind of substantive foreign involvement Alan Canaan from the International Crisis Group. Do you want to jump in on that certainly made news this morning when the Sri Lankan health minister said there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded. Do you take that as an established fact or something that seems a parent based on this fisticuffs of the attacks? I'd say the ladder is the way I'd put it. I don't think anything is absolutely set yet. I think we all need to keep our skeptical hats on until real hard evidence is is presented. But I do think that was the working assumption is this group, which is known in Sri Lanka. And I've in fact done research where I've met people who have suffered at the hands of national tally jemaat, some sufi groups in the eastern town of Kattankudy. So we know they're they're violent rhetoric is extremely violent and sometimes they take that to physical and physical ways. But but they haven't there's no evidence ever presented by anybody. That suggests they had the capability. The resources the skill training the networks to pull off an attack like this. So I think it's a logical assumption that if it was this group through this local group that did it they needed some help from outside. I've just seen a a new statement from from ISIS which claims credit and actually has a photograph of of the of the attackers. I don't know if you've seen that just came out and one of them certainly looks like he could be the the leader of the of the national tally jemaat, but it's a little it's not entirely certain. But it does seem to be pointing more in that direction. I would think this is a majority Buddhist nation with only a seven percent Muslim majority in a six percent Catholic minority from what I've read is that about right? I'm sorry. Say those numbers again, I lost you for a second that this is a majority Buddhist nation with only about seven percent, Muslim minority and six percent, Catholic minority. According to the numbers I've seen it's about. Yeah. It's a Muslims are ten percent of the country. According to the latest census, okay, and Catholic Christians are probably six to eight percent of Catholics. But there's even jealou- Kohl's and there's Methodists in a range of others. So still very small barely into double digits. If it's ten percent for Muslims six or eight percent for Christians. So in the domestic context Allen. I'll stay with you on this. Why would people claiming to represent the ten percent minority attack the eight percent minority or is there? No domestic context there. Well, there's I don't think there's a domestic context which explains that. And I think that is one of the reasons why people are looking. Outside to a different sort of global level of of discourse in violence to to explain that there are tensions within within and between through Lanka's various communities, and those in some cases, been deep if most recently there has been five to six years sustained campaign against Muslims against Muslims principally by single these and Buddhist groups who claim that that Muslims are that quote, unquote, Muslim, extremism and Muslim economic and political power is threatening the Buddhist character of the island. So if you so when I woke up to hearing that there was you know, sort of well, yeah. So I think the logical the logical response than if you were to predict violence by Muslims. It would be against put us not against Christians because there is no no history of tensions between Christians. Muslims and indeed even Jellicoe Christians have like Muslims come under similar forms of pressure from the same set of saying Buddhist, militant groups so in indeed, there's actually a practices of cooperation between evangelical Christian groups and Muslim groups defending themselves and appealing for Justice and protection against such attacks by militant put us. So for all those reasons I think it's extremely unlikely that that the attacks on these on these churches are born of directly born of of Sri Lankan, domestic sort of conflict dynamics shunt the roar from the Washington Post anything to add to that. Now, I would I would contend that that we have. There was no what's shock, so many people when this happened was that there was no implicit understanding of any kind of conflict in between Muslims and Christians, certainly something that would justify this kind of scale at among policy watchers here in Washington, the focus on radicalization of Muslims in South Asia has never ever sort of dwelt on shoe Lunka. You're looking of course on abolish. But even the nearby Maldives, which is this tiny archipelago nation has sent many more fighters to ISIS than the Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka did. So it was never really on our radar in terms of being the next kind of hotbed or target of Joe this activity. Also, joining us now is a member of the Sri Lankan community here in New York. Did no, sir. We did in. Thank you so much for joining us. And I'm so sorry. It's under these circumstances. Much friend for for having create it literally listeners who may not have any idea that this Sri Lankan community in New York. No a little bit about who you are. And where you are. Sure. So I was born and raised in Staten Island with the stray Lincoln community. My parents came here in the early eighties. I grew up in a predominantly Singley Buddhist community right now, the community is really just, you know, still in in shock and in grief. Just yesterday. We held a mass memorial at Saint Adalbert church. It was predominantly though, a Christian and Buddhist community, and so I really resonate with what the other speakers mentioned, which is that. There's definitely a divide even though at the math. It was a beautiful ceremony. And I don't I don't want to take away. How how wonderful it was to see so many folks together, but also seem to absence. Of Muslim meters and tumble, folks. And I'm thinking, and I see that in the sense of, you know, being concerned about the outreach from the community, too, Hummel and most of the leaders. There's absolutely a sense of like Buddhist nationalism is that is in the community. And so I worry a lot about how this tragedy will really turn into the continued rise of those sentiments and an anti Muslim sentiment. The understanding of the history is that the bloody civil war which ended about ten years ago. Had visions that were more ethnic than religious, and this attack seems explicitly religious in nature. I I'm just curious, you know, from your perspective data new how new teams and different teams or how you understand this in the context of Sri Lankan history. Yeah. It was really devastating fear and to me I can't help. But question the story. This theory just doesn't add up to me. And I'm thinking about the time line, and how made us will come up the ten year anniversary of the end of the civil war. And you know, just recently last year, the former president him the Rajapaksa, you know, tried to read reclaim a position as a as a prime minister. And he his history is very much about supporting the same lead students, nationalist agenda. And so to me, I am questioning some of the details and really involved, and what kinds of you know, political play is coming into place and. How that's really impacting the Christian community who I feel like you know, has been kind of shuttled between a lot of the ethnic tensions. Amongst many of the other religious groups interesting when you say you question, the story, do you question the narrative that's come out from the government that this may have been an active retribution for the New Zealand mosque attacks. Yes. I do. Because of all the domestic politics. You would just describe it. Yeah. Yeah..