In recent years, we have seen the rise of certain Islamist organisations abroad which work overtime to slander India’s reputation abroad. In the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 and the passage of the CAA, there was a surge of anti-India propaganda in the West, fuelled usually by dubious Islamic organisations in collaboration with leftists.
Such propaganda and protests eventually led to an attack on the Indian High Commission at London. A webinar, organised on “Islamizing the West: Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-I-Islami, and Tablighi Jamaat” by the Usanas Foundation on the 10th of September, exposed the manner in which such organisations operate and fuel anti-India propaganda.
The speakers at the event were the Director of Research at the Investigative Project on Terrorism Abha Shankar, Director of the US-based think tank Washington Project-Middle East Forum Clifford Smith and Director of the Islamist Watch – Middle East Forum Sam Westrop.
The discussion was moderated by Abhinav Pandya, the founder of Usanas Foundation. Abha Shankar spoke on the Islamic charity organisations in the United States of America that indulge in anti-India activities. She said, “The first major organisation is the US Council of Muslim Organisations (USCMO) – an umbrella group of Islamist organisations across the US. It was launched in 2014 and has a political agenda. Every year it organises the National Muslim American Advocacy day that attracts young Muslim American activists to lobby policymakers on the Hill.”
Abha Shankar also elaborated on the manner in which a delegation of the USMCO met the president of the Pakistan-occupied Jammu & Kashmir and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in order to “exert maximal pressure on the Indian government to lift its lockdown on Kashmir” and “commit to massive humanitarian assistance for the people of Kashmir.” USMCO representatives also met UN officials to highlight the “dire humanitarian crisis” in J&K.
Then there are organisations such as the Council of American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) who are intimately linked to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist and terror organisations. CAIR has been providing platform to Kashmiri separatists. Recently, Hafsa Kanjwal, a Kashmiri separatist who happens to be one of the co-founders of ‘Stand With Kashmir’, featured in a webinar organised by the Philadelphia chapter of CAIR.
As for the ICNA, convicted Pakistani spy and lobbyist Ghulam Nabi Fai regularly speaks at their events. Together, they were very active in furthering propaganda against the CAA at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Abha Shankar concluded ssaying, “If these efforts to change the narrative on Kashmir and push an anti-India agenda remain unchallenged, it will only embolden the Islamists and their allies to spread more lies and will come back to haunt India, its international stature, and US-India relations in the years to come.”
Sam Westrop spoke on the rising influence of Islamic Charity Organisations in the West. He said, “Charity is a key to advancing ideology. Helping Hands for Relief and Development has also organised events with LeT. India finds groups like Helping Hands and Muslim Aid not just on the Pakistani side of the LOC, but also within India itself. The key for the Indian government is to study what they have been doing and what they are doing in India. They must be proscribed and banned in India. Muslim Aid is directly linked with radical charitable organisations in India like the Zakat Foundation.”
We at OpIndia have highlighted the links of the Zakat Foundation to Islamist international organisations abroad including radical islamic preacher Zakir Naik. Westrop mentioned that such organisations are becoming actively involved in spreading the radical agenda of Islamists and are working towards demonising India and provoking terrorism.
He further stated, “We have the ‘Engage’, working for Joe Biden, which connections with radical Islamist outfits. The outfit has also been involved in a lot of anti-India campaigns on Kashmir. The Council on American Islamic Relations is actively supporting Biden. Across the country, Islamists are setting up donors clubs and Political Actions Committees (PACs) and sponsoring legislation not only in Congress but in state legislatures as well.”
Westrop also mentioned that Islamist and terror organisations often moved their money through mosques and third parties. In this context, he mentioned that the UK Charity Commission provides a lot of scope for channelling money people deem fit. Even when evidence was found against Muslim, the members were not prosecuted and instead let off with a warning. He also remarked that cryptocurrency is now being used by terrorists worldwide due to the anonymity it provides.
Commenting on the Tablighi Jamaat, which played a critical role in the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirusand behaved in outrageous fashion with the medical fraternity, Westrop said, “I follow the activities of Tablighi Jamaat in the US and UK very closely. In the 1970s black Salafist mosques were emerging in the US and they used the black identity for promoting Islamism. Their process of indoctrination is really amazing. In terms of membership, it is really the biggest Islamic group in the world. Unlike India, where it has recently become very famous, its name is only known by the law enforcement agencies in the US, as most of the terrorists rise through the ranks of Tablighi Jamaat.”
He added, “There are far too many terrorists coming from that ideology. The problem with Tablighi Jamaat is that it is so shadowy and the inability to track who they are makes it difficult to find who they are and how they operate. They don’t even maintain records and papers. They are groups of extremists that motivate youngsters to resort to extremism and later to terrorism. Countering its influence, the only people which can help the West are the Indians, as India is the place where they have all the infrastructure and base. India was also troubled by the charity from the West and elsewhere by the Islamists in a similar way. So, as we deal with charity organisations for you, you need to deal with Tablighi Jamaat for us. It is a global ideology and requires a global stance.”
Clifford Smith said there are broadly three groups of anti-India elements in the United States of America. Firstly, there are the Islamists of Indian origin. Then there are the Islamists of South-Asian origin. Finally, we have the Islamists of Middle-Eastern origin. The far-left, he argues, aligns with all these three groups.
According to Smith, the Middle-Eastern faction are far ahead in terms of numbers and organisational strength. He argued that such Islamists will weaponize every grievance against India. And that was why a Congressional hearing was organised on human rights issue in South Asia, which primarily focused on the Kashmir issue.
On the matter of terror financing through Islamic charity organisations, he said, “How does that matter if a charity is being directed by groups with a theocratic agenda and has connections with terrorist outfits? The money would find a way if the ideology is the driving force. If you help Hezbollah build homes, you help Hezbollah build bombs. The fundamental issue is to look at who you are giving money to. In this, neither America nor the other countries have not been hesitant to take action.”
Smith also said that although gloom was not necessary with regards to the relationship between India and the US at the moment as ordinary Americans still perceive India to be a decent country, he was not quite sure how things might turn out if Democrats managed to capture the presidency in November. He speculated that Joe Biden would not be as far-left as Bernie Sanders but it was hard to figure where he will land at the end.
He said that under the Bush administration, there was a concerted effort to break the network of Islamic charities. That policy changed under Barack Obama as they believed prosecution of Muslim charity organisations to be fuelled by Islamophobia. Donald Trump, meanwhile, has other priorities. Smith believes that Joe Biden is likely to be better than Obama but it is unlikely that he will able to fix the problem.