When South Asian and American radicals collide, Congress takes notice


A recent hearing on human rights in South Asia focused almost exclusively on the issue of Kashmir, a disputed region which is claimed, at least in part, by India, Pakistan, and China. Legislators and witnesses at the hearing spent a great deal of time denouncing the Indian government’s response to the Pulwama attack of February 2019, in which terrorists killed 40 Indian police officers.

Pakistan’s role in all this, however, went largely unmentioned. Just a few days before the hearing, Pakistani Sen. Sirajul Haq declared, “There is no resolution of the Kashmir problem except through jihad” and that “[t]he entire [Pakistani] nation is ready to fight against India.”

Haq is the emir of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, a multinational radical Islamist movement with a decadeslong history of violence. It was recently banned in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir for supporting terrorists. As such, Haq’s statement deserves more attention, not only because of the explosive nature of the Kashmir dispute, but because there is substantial evidence that American institutions, including the federal government, have been helping fund the violent jihad advocated by Haq.

Luckily, these terror finance links did not escape the attention of several members of Congress. A letter recently sent to State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales by Reps. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, Chuck Fleishmann, R-Tennessee, and Randy Weber, R-Texas, lays out the evidence simply and convincingly.

One of Jamaat-e-Islami’s proxy groups in the West is the Islamic Circle of North America, a large Islamic organization with branches all over the country, whose annual conferences attract thousands of supporters. According to Vali Nasr of Johns Hopkins University, ICNA is one of Jamaat-e-Islami’s most important branches in the world. ICNA’s various officials and branches have a long history of partnership with Jamaat-e-Islami’s terror finance proxies and other South Asian terrorist groups.

For instance, the congressional letter cites numerous reports, first uncovered by the Middle East Forum, that ICNA’s international aid branch, Helping Hand for Relief and Development, has openly organized events in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir with Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, the charitable wing of the Pakistani terrorist organization, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, both of which are U.S.-designated terrorist organizations. The letter also mentions that HHRD has openly admitted to carrying out 214 different projects with al Khidmat, the official “welfare arm” of Jamaat-e-Islami, which publicly works with Hizbul Mujahedeen, the militant wing of Jamaat-e-Islami and a U.S-designated terrorist group, and openly finances Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization.

Perhaps even more disturbingly, the letter cites a recent federal case out of Connecticut in which Fareed Ahmed Khan, a Pakistani-American, was convicted of lying to the FBI during a counterterrorism investigation. Specifically, he denied involvement with ICNA and HHRD when, in fact, he served as the chief fundraiser for the local chapter. He also lied about shipments of medical equipment sent to his brother in Pakistan (believed to be part of a money laundering scheme). His brother, it emerged, is a committed supporter of both Falah-e-Insaniat and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

American support for Jamaat-e-Islami Islamism, however, is not always the product of its ideological proxies. South Asian Islamists also rely on the naivety of federal bureaucrats. ICNA has previously been the recipient of millions in DHS grants, and USAID has directly funded Jamaat schools in the Kashmir region.

The Banks letter is a necessary and important step in cracking down on funding jihadists in Kashmir. It set off a firestorm of coverage in South Asian media.

Numerous terror-linked Islamist groups, including but not limited to ICNA, are openly bidding to make Kashmir their cause celebre. Moreover, Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan (who, according to former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, has a long and deep relationship with Jamaat-e-Islami) recently gave a speech by video conference at an American Islamist conference, urging American Muslims to take up the issue of Kashmir.

It is outrageous and cynical for Khan to act thus, to try to leverage American Muslims in a foreign dispute so heavily overrun with terrorist organizations. There is an urgent need to rebuff such efforts.

Luckily, at least some members of Congress are calling out these brazen attempts to use exploit both America’s government and its Muslim communities as a piggy bank for Jamaat-e-Islami and its terrorist branches and associates. Let’s hope the rest of Congress, those in the Trump administration, and the silent majority of American Muslims join them in putting a halt to this strategy.

Cliff Smith is the Washington project director of the Middle East Forum. Sam Westrop is the director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

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