TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Sri Lankan authorities arrested a Saudi-educated scholar for links with Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday bombings, throwing a spotlight on the rising influence of Salafi-Wahhabi ideology on the island’s Muslims.
“Information has been revealed that the suspect arrested had a close relationship with … Zahran and had been operating financial transactions,” said a police statement late on Friday, according to Reuters.
The statement said Aliyar was “involved” with training in the southern town of Hambantota for the group of suicide bombers who attacked hotels and churches on Easter, killing over 250 people.
A police spokesman declined to provide details on the accusations.
The government says Zahran, a radical Tamil-speaking preacher, was a leader of the group.
Two Muslim community sources in Kattankudy said his hardline views were partly shaped by ultra-conservative Salafi-Wahhabi texts that he picked up at a library at a religious center around 2-3 years ago. The sources are not affiliated with the center.
“I used to always run into him at the center, reading Saudi journals and literature,” said one of the sources.
During that time, Zahran started criticizing the practice of asking God for help, for instance, arguing that such pleas were an affront to pure Islam.
“That kind of teaching was not in Sri Lanka in 2016, unless you read it in Salafi literature,” the source added, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions in Kattankudy.
Wahhabi ideology has its roots in Saudi Arabia and is backed by its rulers.