April 29, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8033

Sri Lanka's National Tawheed Jamaat Has Long-Standing Relationship With India's Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaat

April 29, 2019
Special Dispatch No. 8033

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

Photograph of National Tawheed Jamaat fighters released by ISIS.


This dispatch seeks to establish a long-standing connection between the National Tawheed Jamaat, the Sri Lankan terror group behind the April 21, 2019 suicide bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka in which at least 321 people were killed,[1] and the Indian radical group of similar name Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaat (TNTJ).

On March 1, 2016, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) released a detailed report about the TNTJ titled "All India Thowheed Jamaat – An ISIS Precursor – Holds Anti-Polytheism Conference In India's Tamil Nadu State."[2]

On April 23, 2019, two days after the Easter Sunday attacks, the Islamic State claimed that the coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka were carried out by ISIS fighters.[3]

ISIS also released the names of seven attackers: Abu 'Ubaida, Abu Al-Mukhtar, Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu Al-Bara', Abu Muhammad, and Abu Abdallah.[4] Later, ISIS published a photograph of eight men, seven of whom are masked. The one who is not masked is believed to be Abu 'Ubaida aka Abu 'Ubaida Al-Saylani aka Zahran Hashim, a preacher from the National Tawheed Jamaat of Sri Lanka.[5]

A day before the claim by ISIS, the Sri Lankan government blamed the National Tawheed Jamaat for carrying out the attacks. On April 22, Sri Lankan minister Rajitha Senaratne said: "There had been several warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about the impending attacks."[6] He added: "We don't see how a small organization [National Tawheed Jamaat] can do all of this... We are now investigating international support for the group and their other links."[7]

The Link Between Sri Lankan And The Indian Groups

Sri Lankan Muslims protest the visit of Indian cleric Moulvi P. Jainul Abideen in 2015.

While ISIS's claim and the Sri Lankan government position prove that the National Tawheed Jamaat is the terror group behind the Easter Sunday attacks, the Indian Islamist group Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaat (TNTJ) has sought to delink itself from its Sri Lankan counterpart. Abdhur Rahman, vice president of TNTJ, told a website that it was a case of mistaken identity. [8]

Abdhur Rahman said: "Let us say there is a person called Ramasamy. How many Ramasamys are there in India? Can you say all of them are related or guilty of a crime just because one Ramasamy committed a crime? Thowheed means 'egatthuvam' [monotheism]. It is a word commonly used in Islam. Someone has used the same name for their organization. How can you say we are responsible? We have nothing to do with them. We don't even know who they are."[9]

Abdur Rahman's claim that his organization has no connection with the National Tawheed Jamaat of Sri Lanka is totally false. Both the organizations have had a relationship for more than a decade. Three and a half years ago, Moulvi P. Jainul Abideen of TNTJ was invited to Sri Lanka. According to report published on November 7, 2015, by a Sri Lankan website, Sri Lankan Muslims took to the streets in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, "to protest the visit of fundamentalist Tamil Nadu Muslim leader Moulvi P. Jainul Abideen, known as PJ."[10] It also appears that the Sri Lankan government deported Moulvi P. Jainul Abideen "on the same grounds" in 2005.[11]

As per the November 7, 2015 report, "PJ is not liked by sections of Lankan Muslims because he is campaigning against certain popular practices which he considers un-Islamic. His opponents allege that the TNTJ and SLTJ [Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaat] have accepted crores [tens of millions] of rupees from Saudi Arabia for spreading Wahhabi Islam."[12]

When the controversy erupted in 2015, R. Abdur Razik, the general secretary of the Sri Lankan National Tawheed Jamaat [or, SLTJ], said: "PJ, Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaat and SLTJ are only promoting true Islam, unadulterated by non-Islamic influences."[13] Razik also questioned All Ceylon Jamayyathul Ulama (ACJU) for opposing PJ's visit to Sri Lanka, asking "why the ACJU has never protested against the arrival of non-Muslim preachers or preachers from various Muslim sects like the Ahmadiyas, Bohras and Shias."[14]

In view of the above connections, the assertion by TNTJ vice president Abdur Rahman that his organization has no relationship with the Sri Lankan group is false.

MEMRI Archival Report: 'All India Thowheed Jamaat – An ISIS Precursor – Holds Anti-Polytheism Conference In India's Tamil Nadu State'

The Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaat (TNTJ is the main organization functioning in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Its parent organization is known as All India Thowheed Jamaat, but it is the TNTJ which is most influential. The March 1, 2016 report published by MEMRI described the organization as "an ISIS precursor" because its ideology closely resembles that of ISIS.[15]

The report, which was published in the wake of an event organized by TNTJ in Tamil Nadu on the concept of shirk ("idolatry"), noted: "At the very least, the TNTJ, or its parent organization the AITJ, is a precursor organization to ISIS. Theologically, the TNTJ stands for demolishing all idols – much like the Taliban demolished the Buddhas or ISIS demolishes human figures in Iraq and Syria. However, the TNTJ is at this time targeting only Barelvi-Sufi groups."[16]

"The concept of shirk is an important principle for all Islamic groups, especially the Deobandi groups. The anti-shirk conference in Tamil Nadu should be a cause of concern, because a 29-year-old man from this state, Mohammed Naser Packeer, was recently deported by Sudan after trying to enter Libya to join the Islamic State (ISIS). There were also previous incidents in which young Singapore-based men from Tamil Nadu state joined ISIS in Syria. This should also cause concern because it was in the coastal town of Thondi in Ramanathapuram district of this same state that, in 2014, a group of 26 young Muslim men posed for a group photograph sporting black T-shirts with the ISIS logo in front of a mosque."[17]

The full report can be read here – All India Thowheed Jamaat – An ISIS Precursor – Holds Anti-Polytheism Conference In India's Tamil Nadu State.


[1], April 23, 2019.

[6] ThePrint.In, April 22, 2019. The spellings of names and words have been standardized for clarity.

[7] ThePrint.In, April 22, 2019.

[8], April 23, 2019.

[9], April 23, 2019.

[10], November 7, 2015.

[11], November 7, 2015.

[12], November 7, 2015.

[13] DailyNews.LK, November 11, 2015.

[14] DailyNews.LK, November 11, 2015.

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