Is This The Jihadi Imam Who Planned The Sri Lanka Bombings?

No group has yet to take credit for the Easter Sunday bombings that killed nearly 300 people in Sri Lanka, though authorities have pinned the attacks on a home-grown jihadist group called the National Thowheeth Jama’th, which was likely aided by an international jihadist network. But according to early unconfirmed reports, the alleged mastermind of the attack was NTJ Imam and prolific lecturer Moulvi Zahran Hashim. Reports alternatively identified him as the mastermind of the bombings, and as one of the suicide bombers who carried them out.

Hashim

Moulvi Zahran Hashim.

But while left-wing critics have accused those sharing this speculation as Islamophobic, it's worth considering: Who is Hashim? And was he connected to Sunday's attacks and if so, how?

First, regardless of whether Hashim was responsible for the attacks or not, another reformist Imam questioned why so many of his lectures which encouraged young Muslims to participate in jihad and kill 'kafir' - infidels - remained up on YouTube (in the wake of the attacks, it appears some of his videos have finally been removed).

According to the Jerusalem Post, Hashim has a history of "racism and Islamic superiority." In July 2017, it was reported that NTJ's leaders were being prosecuted for making derogatory remarks about Buddhists. Trying to incite inter-religious strife on the diverse island country is a crime in Sri Lanka. He had also posted several videos of what could be described as "incitement".

It has also been reported that Hashim and the NTJ had planned to attack the Indian embassy in Sri Lanka earlier this month as retribution for India's treatment of its minority Muslim population.

Sri Lanka has experienced a spike in jihadist activity since 2017. Police have arrested roughly two dozen suspected members of NTJ since the attacks, and have vowed to hold those who planned the attacks responsible.