A group of Muslim religious scholars in Sri Lanka warned against reports of a possible terrorist attack similar to the 2019 Easter bombing of Catholic churches in the country’s capital.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), an organization of Islamic theologians, expressed concern over extremist influences and asked Muslims “to be cautious and vigilant.”
“We appeal to the Muslim community to be wary of [the Islamic State] and similar terrorist organizations that present themselves as protectors of Islam in a deceptive and false way,” read the group’s statement released on October 8.
The group said those behind the threats “are in fact orchestrated by elements hostile to the Islamic faith and all religions.”
In the same statement, the Muslim religious scholars said they “deeply saddened by the fact that the innocent civilian lives were lost and many suffered injuries” in the Easter Sunday attacks on April 21, 2019.
Following the attacks, the scholars noted that “false allegations are being circulated against Islam and Muslims by certain elements who are intent on disrupting communal unity.”
“We, the ACJU strongly urge the Muslim community not to be provoked by such conspirators and to practice restraint,” read the group’s statement.
“We need to emphasize that our community has made innumerable contributions and sacrifices in the national interest of our country,” it added.
“It is however disappointing to note that a situation has arisen, where vested interests are continuing to instigate distrust and hatred on grossly false basis against the Muslims, following the cowardly and brutal terrorist attacks carried out by a few misguided elements with Muslim names, while overlooking the invaluable contribution of the community towards this nation,” said the group.
The Muslim theologians urged the faithful to “practice moderation” and to “strive to build closer relationships with all communities.”
Catholic Church leaders in Sri Lanka have earlier called for an investigation into a claim by a Buddhist monk that a new terrorist attack is imminent in the country.
Buddhist monk Galgoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero claimed in a television interview that he had informed Catholic Church officials and government leaders about an imminent attack on coastal parishes in the country.
The monk, who serves as general secretary of the nationalist organization Bodu Bala Sena, claimed that he knew who and where the groups that would like to carry out a new attack are.
In its statement, the Archdiocese of Colombo denied that the monk had warned Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of the impending attack on the Catholic community as far back as 2017.
The statement said the monk had only spoken to the cardinal about “Islamic expansionism.”
Gnanasara Thero has been accused in the past of using Islamophobic rhetoric, which critics claim resulted in incidents of mob violence in the past.
The monk was convicted of contempt of court for berating a judge in a courthouse and for threatening Sandhya Eknaligoda, wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisena in May 2019.
On April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches in Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in the commercial capital, Colombo, were targeted in a series of coordinated Islamist terrorist suicide bombings.