July 10 (Soufan) Concerns over the spread of Saudi-funded Wahhabism throughout religious institutions, charities and mosques are not new. For decades, Riyadh has spent millions or more to spread an austere version of Islam throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere.
The money is earmarked specifically to build Wahhabi mosques and train hardline preachers to take the Saudi version of the faith back to their home countries. Sri Lanka is just the latest country to take a more discerning look at precisely what the Saudis are funding in their country and what the implications might be. This comes as the government is still dealing with the impact of the devastating terrorist attacks that occurred this past April on Easter Sunday that were targeted against churches and hotels frequented by Westerners that killed at least 250 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by nine Sri Lankan members of a local terrorist group
The investigations into the attacks are still ongoing, and hundreds of people have been detained for alleged involvement. At the center of the inquiry are concerns over Saudi-funded institutions and possible connections to Salafi jihadist ideology. In May, police arrested the founder of the Saudi-supported Centre for Islamic Guidance, Mohamed Aliyar, on charges related to the financing of terrorism. Aliyar had links to Zahran Hasim, a radical preacher who mentored many of the Easter-attack bombers. Locals have claimed that they relayed concerns to security officials about Hasimís extremism, although these leads were never acted upon. Other prominent Sri Lankan Muslim leaders have also come under scrutiny as authorities review financial transactions between Saudi Arabia and religious leaders in the South Asian island nation. Several of these leaders have been forced to step down due to pressure from politically influential Buddhist monks.
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