Putting an End to Govern­ment Fund­ing of Is­lamism

The Jewish Voice - - ARTS AND CULTURE - By: Sam We­strop

In an Au­gust 22 speech, Pres­i­dent Trump de­nounced the flow of U.S. money to Pak­istan while that na­tion har­bors ter­ror­ists. South Asian Is­lamism is an enor­mous prob­lem, and yet a great deal of the dis­cus­sion in Amer­ica sur­round­ing Is­lamism fo­cuses on the Egyp­tian-founded Mus­lim Brother­hood.

But the Mus­lim Brother­hood is far from the only Is­lamist net­work in the United States; it is sim­ply the best known. Other Is­lamist move­ments also ben­e­fit from govern­ment ig­no­rance about the di­ver­sity of Is­lam and Is­lamism across the globe.

The South Asian Is­lamist move­ment Ja­maat-e-Is­lami (JI), for in­stance, has re­ceived mil­lions from the U.S. tax­payer for its pow­er­ful net­work of char­i­ties and wel­fare ser­vices, which are de­signed to ob­tain ex­ter­nal fund­ing as well as le­git­imize Ja­maat-e-Is­lami as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive voice of Mus­lims, in both Amer­ica and South Asia.

Although Ja­maat-e-Is­lami has its own ide­o­logues, lit­er­a­ture and in­fra­struc­ture, it is of­ten de­scribed as the South Asian “cousin” of the Mus­lim Brother­hood. Qazi Ah­mad Hus­sain, head of Ja­maat-e-Is­lami in Pak­istan, has de­clared: “We con­sider our­selves as an in­te­gral part of the Brother­hood and the Is­lamic move­ment in Egypt….Our na­tion is one.”

Ja­maat-e-Is­lami's his­tory is bloody. Dur­ing the 1971 Lib­er­a­tion War in Bangladesh, Ja­maat-e-Is­lami fight­ers helped Pak­istani forces mas­sacre hun­dreds of thou­sands of Bangladeshis seek­ing in­de­pen­dence from Pak­istan.

Sev­eral Ja­maat-e-Is­lami lead­ers guilty of these war crimes fled to the West, where they helped es­tab­lish Ja­maat-e-Is­lami or­ga­ni­za­tions that op­er­ated as com­mu­nity lead­er­ship groups. Two Western Ja­maat-e-Is­lami lead­ers have since been sen­tenced to death in ab­sen­tia for these killings by a war-crimes tri­bunal.

One of those con­victed, Ashra­fuz­za­man Khan, served as a lead­ing of­fi­cial of the Is­lamic Cir­cle of North Amer­ica (ICNA), a prom­i­nent Amer­i­can Mus­lim or­ga­ni­za­tion. Twice a year, ICNA jointly hosts a con­fer­ence with the Mus­lim Amer­i­can So­ci­ety (MAS), a lead­ing Mus­lim Brother­hood in­sti­tu­tion.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, these con­fer­ences are filled with ex­trem­ist preach­ers. Ahmed Taha, an ICNA-MAS of­fi­cial who or­ga­nized their con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, has re­pub­lished posts on so­cial me­dia stat­ing: “O Mus­lim, O ser­vant of God. There is a Jew be­hind me, come kill him.”

De­spite its long his­tory of ex­trem­ism, in 2016 ICNA re­ceived$1.3 mil­lion of tax­pay­ers' money as part of a grant awarded by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

ICNA is not the only Ja­maat-e-Is­lami or­ga­ni­za­tion in Amer­ica. Nor is it the only Ja­maat-e-Is­lami group to have re­ceived tax­payer funds. Be­hind ICNA and other front groups around the world, Ja­maat-e-Is­lami op­er­ates an enor­mous net­work of reg­is­tered char­i­ties and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions. One of the most prom­i­nent is the Ru­ral Ed­u­ca­tion and De­vel­op­ment (READ) Foun­da­tion.

READ man­ages 374 schools in Azad Jammu and Kash­mir, the Pak­istani-con­trolled area of the Kash­mir re­gion, as well as in nearby Pak­istani ru­ral ar­eas. These schools teach over 100,000 stu­dents. Although based in Pak­istan, READ has of­fices in the United King­dom and a net­work of rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the United States. ICNA and other U.S.-based Ja­maat-e-Is­lami groups de­scribe READ as their “part­ner.”

READ's own Ja­maat-e-Is­lami links are clear: Board mem­ber Mo­ham­mad Ayub also ap­pears to serve as a leader of the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami branch in Azad Jammu and Kash­mir. As Cana­dian jour­nal­ist Sonya Fatah notes, READ is part of a “com­plex web of or­ga­ni­za­tions” run by Ja­maat-e-Is­lami. These wel­fare and so­cial-ser­vices agen­cies serve both to “gain con­verts in poor ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties” and to “win votes.”

Within this web, READ's “sis­ter or­ga­ni­za­tions” in­clude the Al Khid­mat Foun­da­tion and the Ghaz­ali Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, two other Pak­istani char­i­ties fo­cused on schools and ed­u­ca­tion, which openly iden­tify as Ja­maat-e-Is­lami in­sti­tu­tions and also en­joy close part­ner­ships with ICNA.

In 2006, Ja­maat-e-Is­lami's own web­site an­nounced that Al Khid­mat had given 6 mil­lion ru­pees ($100,000) to Ha­mas for their “just Ji­had.” Of­fi­cials from both the Al Khid­mat Foun­da­tion and the Ghaz­ali Ed­u­ca­tion Trust work closely with Syed Salahud­din, the leader of Hizbul Mu­jahideen, Ja­maat-e-Is­lami's para­mil­i­tary wing. Both Salahud­din and Hizbul Mu­jahideen have re­cently been des­ig­nated as ter­ror­ists by the U.S. govern­ment.

From 2013 to 2016, the State Depart­ment and the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment handed out over $2 mil­lion to READ.

If Ja­maat-e-Is­lami's in­volve­ment with acts of geno­cide, its fund­ing of Ha­mas, and its con­tin­ued ter­ror­ist links are not enough to sug­gest these grants were a bad idea, there is also the ques­tion of what READ schools are ac­tu­ally teach­ing their stu­dents, sub­si­dized by the Amer­i­can tax­payer.

There is no in­for­ma­tion pub­licly avail­able about the text­books or cur­ric­ula used in these schools. We do not know what stu­dents are taught, and when we asked the State Depart­ment, they failed to re­spond. But a glance at the so­cial-me­dia pages op­er­ated by READ schools is not promis­ing.

Posts in­clude a homage to Mum­taz Qadri, an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist who, in 2011, mur­dered Pun­jab gov­er­nor Sal­man Taseer in ret­ri­bu­tion for Taseer's pub­lic sup­port for a Pak­istani Christian woman con­victed of blas­phemy. The READ Face­book post fea­tures a por­trait of Mum­taz Qadri with a cap­tion that states: “We are all in your debt, O mes­sen­ger of Al­lah.”

Other so­cial-me­dia post­ings in­clude text de­nounc­ing the “Amer­i­can Sec­u­lar Ter­ror­ists#…#dirty peo­ple” who “de­stroyed Iraq and killed 150,000 Iraqis” on the “in­struc­tions of Iran.” A num­ber of READ schools have also pub­lished pho­tos from school cer­e­monies in which young chil­dren wear­ing mil­i­tary uni­forms and hold­ing guns act out bat­tles — rem­i­nis­cent of sim­i­lar events in the Gaza Strip un­der Ha­mas.

The U.S. govern­ment is not READ's only pub­licly listed part­ner. It en­joys sup­port from a num­ber of Western gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing grants of over $360,000 in 2012 and 2013 from the Bri­tish govern­ment. Other named READ part­ners in­clude

the ter­ror­ism-linked In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Char­i­ta­ble Or­ga­ni­za­tion in Kuwait, the Wah­habi-run World As­so­ci­a­tion of Mus­lim Youth and the Qatar Char­i­ta­ble So­ci­ety, all of which have funded Ha­mas and other ter­ror­ist groups.

In the West, READ does not bother to dis­tance it­self from hard-line cler­ics. Speak­ers at READ events have in­cluded Uth­man La­teef, an overtly anti-Semitic preacher who has ex­pressed sup­port for con­victed ter­ror­ists, and Su­laiman Gani, a prom­i­nent supporter of con­victed Al Qaeda op­er­a­tive Aafia Sid­diqui.

In April 2017, the Bri­tish govern­ment's reg­u­la­tor of char­i­ties in­ves­ti­gated the READ Foun­da­tion af­ter the Times re­ported it had hosted an event with Yasir Qadhi, an Amer­i­can Salafi preacher who has de­clared that the pun­ish­ment for ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is death.

Mil­lions of dol­lars of Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers' money have been given to Ja­maat-e-Is­lami or­ga­ni­za­tions. These funds serve to bol­ster Ja­maat-e-Is­lami's in­flu­ence and power in South Asia, to the detri­ment of mod­er­ate Mus­lims in the re­gion, and le­git­imize the claims of Ja­maat-e-Is­lami's or­ga­ni­za­tions in Amer­ica to rep­re­sent or­di­nary Mus­lims.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is show­ing in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing the threat posed by the Mus­lim Brother­hood. A re­cent re­view of the Coun­ter­ing Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ism pro­gram di­vested MB groups of govern­ment pa­tron­age. Now it falls to the ad­min­is­tra­tion to un­der­stand that Is­lamism takes many other forms, and with the help of mod­er­ate Mus­lim or­ga­ni­za­tions, the govern­ment must ac­tively work to con­front and de­fund them all. Tax­payer sub­sidy of Is­lamism at home and abroad must not con­tinue.

Although Ja­maat-e-Is­lami (pic­tured above) has its own ide­o­logues, lit­er­a­ture and in­fra­struc­ture, it is of­ten de­scribed as the South Asian “cousin” of the Mus­lim Brother­hood

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