One of the rarer stories coming from the ex-Muslim community known to me, as an independent journalist with an interest in research into these personalities and communities, comes in the personhood of Rishvin Ismath. As noted by Giovanni Gaetani of Humanists International, he is the “only outspoken ex-Muslim of Sri Lanka.” If not, then the only major ex-Muslim outspoken figure from Sri Lanka known to me, so should be commended, as such.
Here he writes about the differences between a Muslim, an Islamist, and a Jihadist, this comes from a Sri Lankan perspective.
By Rishvin Ismath
It was witnessed that certain media portrayed the attackers merely as Muslims while they were reporting about an attack that happened a few days ago in Stuttgart, Germany when a group of activists were commemorating the death anniversary of French school teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered in 2020 for the allegation of displaying a picture of prophet Mohamed in the classroom. The news reporting of the Stuttgart attack was an ample example for the common ambiguity among the precise meaning of the terms Muslims, Islamists & Jihadists. The ambiguous usage of these terms can widely be witnessed on public space such as political, media and social media platforms. Improper usage of such sensitive terms can clearly lead to hatred against the innocents.
Muslims are ordinary people, just like all other ordinary people, but they accept and follow Islam as their religion. Muslims live as same as every other ordinary people other than the specific instances when they do their religious rituals. They make up the majority of those who are commonly identified as ‘Muslims’ in the censuses. Some of them pray five times a day, some others pray once or twice a day, there are still others who pray only on Fridays, while some others pray twice or thrice a year. Regardless of the interval in which they engaging religious rituals, all of them are identified as Muslims in general. According to them, their day-to-day life is not dominated by religion in toto.
There’s a small dominant group within the Muslim community that uses hegemonic powers to control the community. The small dominant group is identified as ‘Islamists’. The facts about them are still hardly exposed to the public. Islamists hold threatening and dangerous hidden ideas such as, ‘Only Islam should rule the whole world, Islam is the only solution to all the problems in the world, every activity in the world should be carried out according to the Islamic teachings, all Muslims should follow Islam in toto, Islam should be propagated to everyone in the world, Jihad should be declared against the people who do not accept Islam, sacrificing the lives for the sake of Islam is the greatest honor etc. They work in different platforms, performing different roles with long-term agendas.
It is wrong to imagine that all such people have long bushy beards and are dressed in Arabian attires. Most of them present themselves in stylish appearances and they intrude various fields and platforms methodically. They do not normally directly involve in to violence and terrorism, however, they are well capable of producing persons who can engage in direct violence and terrorism. They possess the ability to engage in violence and in terrorism, only when it is highly necessary for them to do so. They are so subtle as to use the leftists and the progressive forces which are concerned about the oppression of Muslims to achieve their own targets as well as for political lobbying.
The Islamists are well capable of subtly justifying violence, sexual discrimination, scientific contradictions and superstitious beliefs etc found in Islamic scriptures with appealing words and tactics, they believe that they do Jihad by the pen. Whenever the Jihadists carry out terrorist attacks, Islamists take a well-analyzed stand to suite to the developing circumstances and the emotions of the masses. They would design their stand in accordance with public opinion. ‘Islam has nothing to do with this’ is one of their widely used rhetorics for cover-ups. They do not hesitate to exemplify freedom struggles to justify terrorist attacks when they decide to do wise-versa. They are mostly highly skilled in carrying out the tasks they are assigned according to the long-term agenda. Their intrusion into the country’s key sectors such as education, administration, media, non-government organizations etc is a well planned and methodically executed one. Insertion of extremist and harmful materials into the school textbooks that are capable of creating hatred and spreading violence, accreditation obtained by Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami’s students wing from the government department for the residential training conducted by them under various bogus titles to establish an Islamic State in Sri Lanka and permission obtained by Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami’s student wing to use the state embalm for the above said residential trainings are some visible examples of the results of the methodical intrusion by Islamists into the key state sectors.
The third group, ‘Jihadists,’ generally evolves from among the Islamists. Jihadists are the people who use violence, terror and assault weapons to achieve what the Islamists believe and what Islamists ploy to achieve through long-term agendas. Jihadists remain to be Islamists until they are prepared to carry-out terror attacks. ‘A non-Islamist Muslim’ directly becoming a Jihadist is a very rare phenomenon. A Jihadi suicide bomber can blow himself up only one time, but every single Islamist is capable of creating a countless number of Jihadi suicide bombers
I do continue to expose Islamists and their secret ploys until this very day within my capacity, but I do not mean that they will blast bombs immediately. They, too, would buy their own time to detonate such things in their own way, they act only when the right time comes for them according to their own almanac. Therefore, it cannot be predicted to happen immediately in the broad day light. I made my first detailed statement to the intelligence about Zahran and his ISIS affiliation in July 2016, but nothing happened straightaway. It took nearly 03 years for Zahran and his bunch of terrorists to launch the suicide attacks on Easter Sunday of 2019. It is not easy to predict when Islamists of the present day would detonate their long-term plans. I am not aware of any official records that mention anyone else has made a statement to law enforcement regarding Zahran’s ISIS affiliation prior to my statement registered in July 2016. Immediately after the Easter Sunday attacks, a number of Islamists deleted their previous postings on social media platforms such as Facebook and suddenly started to share anti-Zahran posts with the idea of hoodwink the law enfocement and the public to pose that they too were oppose to Islamic terrorism. When Mohamed Thaslim was shot in Mawanella following the destruction of the Buddha statues in the area, I exposed the background of the shooters of Taslim in Facebook, but individuals connected to Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami tried to silence me.
Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami is a Jihadist as well as an Islamist Organization that operates in Sri Lanka with a long-term agenda. They are the pioneers in sending Sri Lankan Muslim youth to places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir for Jihad fighting and Jihad training. Most of the Islamists who are currently operating in Sri Lanka were trained and moulded by Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami. Even though the fact that the ordinary Muslims and the Islamists are not the same, the Islamists never allow the fact known by the public. The Islamists prefer to mingle and hide among the Muslims and they like to show that they are intergral part of the Muslim community. The Islamists are well experienced and very proficient in using the term ‘Islamophobia’ very effectively to silence the criticism and questions against them.
‘All the Sri Lankan Muslims discuss about Islamic State’ was part of the statement of Hajjul Akbar, former leader of Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami, before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on 26th October 2020. Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami works with a secret long-term agenda to form an Islamic State in Sri Lanka. When Hajjul Akbar was questioned about the secret agenda of Sri Lanka Jamathe Islami, he made the above statement in response. The above statement of Hajjul Akbar can be considered as an attempt to portray their own secret agenda as the agenda of Sri Lankan Muslim community at a point when their agenda was exposed and questioned. This statement is a good example of how Islamists try to make Muslims a scapegoat for protecting themselves and their own interests. This is the main reason that the Islamists do not want the world to know that Muslims, Islamists and Jihadists are not the same. Islamists are well aware that their survival solely depends as long as they are mingled together with Muslims. Regardless of the subtle attempts of the Islamists, the Muslim Community should become strong enough to come forward to identify, expose and expel the Islamists. Otherwise Muslim Community may face hardships over and again.
A popular belief has been forming among the Sri Lankans following the Easter Sunday Suicide attacks that Sufi Muslims are peaceful people and there’s no danger to the country from them. Hence nowadays, many Islamists attempt to disguise themselves as Sufi Muslims and share the quotes of famous Sufi Saints like Moulana Rumi in social media. All parties, including Sufi Muslims, should be vigilant about this chameleon attitude of the Islamists.
As an ex-Muslim and ex-Islamist, exposing secrets about Islamists that have not yet been exposed to public is life threatening to me, but I will not become silent unless I am silenced. I will continue to expose Islamists, jihadists, terrorists, extremists and their secret agendas, plans and teachings and will continue to strive for it until my last breath.
During the eras when Muslim community was led by Muslim leaders, it achieved and gained many successes and privileges in the fields such as law, education, employment, industry and sports. Many of the privileges and rights enjoyed by the Muslim community at present were bestowed during the period of Muslim leaders. Muslims were highly respected by other communities during that period. But when the Islamists began to highjack the leadership of the Muslim community from the Muslim leaders, the Muslim community has become a community looked down on by suspicion and hated by others. When it comes to the leadership of Islamists, indoctrination of extremist ideology, brainwashing Muslim youth to introduce international Islamic terrorism, exposing the Muslim youth to international terrorist organizations and creation of Islamic terrorism within them were the many harmful things Islamist leadership feed to the community. Islam was practiced as a peaceful religion until the arrival of Islamist leadership; once the Islamist leadership took control of the community, it reintroduced Islam as a fascist ideology that thinks it should rule the whole world alone by destroying all other political, religious and social ideologies. As long as Islam was practiced only as a religion in a peaceful way, things were calm, but Muslims and others lost their peace of mind from the moment when Islamists started to present Islam as a fascist ideology.
It is the responsibility of all those who love humanity to rescue Muslims from Islamists. It is unfortunate that many leftists and progressive thinkers do not understand or do not want to understand the difference between Islamists and Muslims. Because of that, the left and the progressive fronts who claim to be in support of the Muslim minority are actually joining hands together with the Islamists, the same Islamists who oppress the Muslims. Those who love Muslims should not join hands with Islamists, instead, they should try to liberate Muslims from Islamists. The time has come for the progressive fronts and the left to take a clear stand on whether they are working hand in hand with Muslims and Ex-Muslims or the oppressive Islamists. If they genuinely care about the oppressed, they should no longer do the contradictory act of joining hands with the oppressors by merely saying ‘we are with the oppressed.’
Let’s come back to the Stuttgart incident with the understanding of the differences between the said three groups for the conclusion of this article. It is appropriate to call the murderer of French school teacher Samuel Paty as a jihadi and to call those who attacked the participants of the commemoration of Samuel Paty as either jihadists or Islamists. It would be entirely wrong for generalize such people as Muslims and it would lead to the making of Muslim hatred or Muslimophobia. Therefore, it would be appropriate to use the terms jihadist and Islamist in proper context instead of generally referring to them as Muslims.
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Rishvin Ismath is an ex- Muslim and ex-Islamist.
He left Islam in 2013. He is the only public ex-Muslim in Sri Lanka.
He is the spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka (CEMSL) at present.
He was one of the co-founders of CEMSL.
Police interrogations following the Easter Sunday Suicide Attacks confirmed that Islamists led by Zahran had attempted to kill him a few times for apostasy.
Rishvin appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee on 20th June, 2019 and exposed the extremist materials in School Textbooks.
He provided his statement to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on March 07th 2020 and May 13th, 2020.