Fighting for the soul of Islam in Sri Lanka

After the Easter bombings, I am struggling to understand how violent ideology has taken hold in my Muslim community.

A poster showing four hands with different religious symbols. It was put up in honour of the victims of the Zion Church suicide bomb attack in Kattankudy on April 26. Sri Lanka had ignored the slow, deep process of radicalisation behind the attacks,
A poster showing four hands with different religious symbols. It was put up in honour of the victims of the Zion Church suicide bomb attack in Kattankudy on April 26. Sri Lanka had ignored the slow, deep process of radicalisation behind the attacks, said the writer.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

COLOMBO (Sri Lanka) • Two days after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, I met my greengrocer at the Colpetty market, a symbol of the cosmopolitan city that I call home. I have known Ashraff virtually all my life. He did not have his usual half-smile on his face, and when I went up to him to say goodbye, I could see he was troubled.

Eventually, shaking his head in sorrow, with tears in his eyes, he told me that the day before, someone he had known for 35 years, a man from Sri Lanka's Sinhala majority, had said he could no longer be his friend.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2019, with the headline 'Fighting for the soul of Islam in Sri Lanka'. Subscribe