Islamist political groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, always claim that Muslims can never be associated with terrorism, even as Islamist military groups, including their own arms, engage in it.
National Thowheeth Jama'ath, a Sri Lankan Islamist group, has been accused of being behind the Easter Sunday bombings. A number of those arrested have links to NTJ.
While ISIS claimed credit for it, the Islamic terror group abroad operates mostly through affiliates and allies. A number of Sri Lankan Muslims had gone to fight with ISIS. But it seems unlikely that a massive terror operation like this could have been anything but a partnership between ISIS and local Islamists, with ISIS providing the vision and local Islamists actually implementing it.
That brings us back to National Thowheeth Jama'ath, which, until recently, had operated on the Muslim Brotherhood model, pushing Islamic law, while condemning bias against Muslims and claiming that it was fighting for Muslim civil rights.
The NTJ or the National Thowheed Jamath is a right-wing Islamic extremist outfit with a presence mainly in the eastern province of Sri Lanka. The group is also infamous for preaching ‘Wahabi’ Islamic teachings to its followers. Besides this, it aggressively promotes Sharia law, building of mosques, and instructs Muslim women to observe ‘purdah’.
There’s very little information available about this controversial outfit, but it is said to have originated in a Muslim-dominated eastern town of Sri Lanka – Kattankudy.
The NTJ is believed to be a splinter group of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaat (STLJ), another Islamist group based in the country.
Abdul Razik, NTJ’s secretary, has been accused of giving inflammatory speeches during his sermons. Back in 2014, Razik also spewed venom against Buddhism.
The NTJ was also linked with the vandalism of Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka last year, resulting in rising communal tensions between Buddhists and Muslims. Razik was arrested in 2016 on the charges of disrupting peace.
At this point, things become somewhat confusing, because of the ambigious relationship between the various Thowheed Jaamats.
The Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat has a three floor building in the heart of old Chennai, on Armenian street, not far from the Madras high court. It runs two mosques in Chennai and has other offices for social work.
The reception at the TNTJ head office has a display of various books on Islam. We are told the TNTJ employs writers to produce these books which the Jamaat then publishes. It also publishes two magazines in Tamil.
"We have been doing social work for 30 years and no journalist thought about writing about us and today so many of you have come here," chides TNTJ General Secretary E Mohammad.
Though he speaks about 30 years of service, the organisation was only registered 15 years ago, in 2004.
Wikipedia says the organisation was founded by P Jainulabdeen, but Mohammad says the founder was removed by the TNTJ governing body as his activities violated its principles.
Specifically, he was apparently accused of sexual misconduct.
"The blasts in Lanka are against our ideology. They say Islamists have done it. They are naming the National Tauheed Jamaat. We don't know who they are. We have nothing to do with them," says Mohammad.
"We have a sister organisation in Lanka called the Sri Lanka Tauheed Jamaat," he adds. "It has worked with the government there. After the blasts, they collected over 100 bottles of blood for the victims."
That would appear to be the TNJ being linked to the bombing.
Meanwhile its "sister organization" has gone around condemning terrorism.
Scores of cadres belonging to the Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamaath (TNTJ) participated in the human chain formed here to make aloud the Muslim voice against terrorism and terrorist activities.
The TNTJ was spearheading a concerted bid to make known to the world in general and India in particular that no Muslim could ever be associated with terrorist activities, said the Thanjavur North district president of the TNTJ Swamimalai Jaffar speaking at a human chain programme held near the Diamond Theatre on Thanjavur Road. Speakers at the meet stressed that it was the TNTJs effort to paint the correct picture of the peaceful community as a whole.
Participants held aloft placards and hoardings denouncing terrorism and stressing that terrorism has no role in a true Islamic society.
Because by then the terrorists will be in charge. It's a clever dodge.
There had already been signs that NTJ was, like all Islamist groups, a Jihadist gateway.
In what could be a first for a terror probe in the country, the father of a youth arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged links to the Islamic State (IS) has given a statement before a magistrate corroborating how his son was drawn to jihadist ideology. The statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) will be used as evidence against the son...
Hailing from Thanjavur, Naseer did computer engineering at MNM Engineering College in Chennai between 2010 and 2014. It was during this period that Naseer and a couple of his friends started visiting a mosque in Chennai run by the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, a non-political Islamic organisation that preaches a puritanical version of Islam. It was founded by P Jainul Abdeen in 2004, when he broke away from the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam.
Naseer attended around 30 to 40 lectures on religious discourse by Jainul Abdeen. He also began to pore over the website onlinepj.com dealing with Islamic discourse, he has allegedly told interrogators.
It's the same old story.