When I first heard news of the bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, I wondered which group was to blame this time. At first, the government was calling it a terrorist attack by “religious extremists.”
That’s it? Think of it: 290 people dead. That’s five times the amount of Muslims shot by in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. And everyone tried to sidestep the identity of the perpetrators?
Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country and hardline Buddhist groups have consistently harassed the minority Christians there. This is a complex situation, as former GetReligionista Ira Rifkin noted in this post last year.
Writing in the Guardian, a Muslim writer points out here that religious Muslim and Christian minorities in Sri Lanka have been sitting ducks for militant Buddhists for a long time. Even after a Methodist church was attacked by Buddhists on Palm Sunday in the northern part of the country, no precautions were taken for Easter celebrations.
But when I heard the attacks were set off by suicide bombers, that brought to mind radicalized Muslims, not Buddhists. The former is known worldwide for its use of suicide bombers. (However, Sri Lanka is the birthplace of the mainly Hindu Tamil Tigers, who pioneered suicide bombings in the 1980s. More on that in a moment.)
As I wrote this Sunday night, no one was saying a word as to which religious group did this. Now, government officials say they believe an “Islamist militant group” is to blame. No group has taken credit for the attacks.
So far, the U.K. press has been more on top of this story than was American media, with the exception of the New York Times, which has turned out some very good pieces in the past 24 hours. First, so I turned to the Guardian: