ICNA’s Violent Islamist Relations in Kashmir

The 'American arm' of Jamaat-e-Islami.

On September 22nd, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to the stage with President Trump, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. 50,000 attendees, including this author, watched in awe, as Modi told of the changes that have taken place in India: changes to India’s economy and infrastructure, changes to Indian hygiene, and changes to how India deals with the terrorists in Kashmir. This last subject drew the most emotions and not just inside the arena, but outside as well, as busloads of protesters took to the streets decrying human rights violations in Kashmir. Yet, the group leading the demonstration has numerous links to the terrorists.

Kashmir or more properly Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a state located in India. However, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution gave a special status to Kashmir, granting autonomy to those residing in the state and disallowing non-citizens of Kashmir the ability to purchase property within the state. As a result, the Muslim-majority of Kashmir, which stands today at around 70%, was protected and others were rendered second-class citizens. This special status was always deemed a temporary one; though, for decades, Indian authorities have been reluctant to alter it. That is, until now.

In August, following action in both houses of Parliament, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind declared the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370. For years, discrimination and terrorism against Kashmir’s non-Muslim minorities have engulfed the region, forcing people to flee their homes. This has been a fully legitimate concern, but it seems not enough of a concern for radical Muslims, who have used the issue as an excuse to voice their outrage. One such group, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), has organized rallies around the US calling for 360 to be reinstated. The group’s motives for doing so are tainted by their ties to the terrorists.

Since its founding in September 1968, ICNA has served as the American arm of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), South Asia’s largest Islamist group. In fact, as first reported by this author, ICNA shares its logo with JI’s student group, Bangladesh Islami Chatrisangsta (BICS). As a result of ICNA’s relationship with JI, ICNA has had numerous associations with terrorists and terrorist financing.

In September 1971, members of BICS established al-Badr, JI’s then-militant wing and the group responsible for the 1971 genocide committed during Bangladesh’s War of Independence. A top death squad leader from the war, Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, would later become Secretary General of ICNA. In November 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentenced Khan to death (in absentia) for the torture and murder of 18 individuals during the war. At the time, Khan was residing in New York, and without an extradition treaty with Bangladesh, he remains there and, according to his LinkedIn profile, is currently employed by ICNA as an imam for the group.

The Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF) is the main charitable apparatus of JI. For years, ICNA has coordinated with AKF for projects overseas and continues to do so to this day. In August 2006, JI announced on its website that AKF had taken a delegation to the then-Damascus, Syria home of then-global head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal. The delegation presented Mashal with $100,000. As stated by JI, Mashal thanked the delegation for the money and assured the group that Hamas would continue to wage “jihad” against “the Zionist yoke.” At the time of the transaction, ICNA was a partner to AKF and topped the list of donors on AKF’s website.

JI giving money to Hamas is no surprise. Both groups are key parts of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, JI held a rally in Karachi, featuring Hamas leader Mashal live via telephone and JI members dressed as Hamas militants. Much like his statements to the Damascus delegation, Mashal thanked the crowd and vowed that Hamas will “continue its jihad against the USA and Israeli army.” Leading the rally were JI Chief (Ameer) Sirajul Haq and JI Karachi Chief Naeem ur Rehman. Prior to the rally, Rehman tweeted a photo of himself holding a sign “SUPPORT HAMMAS” and declaring, “I support Hammas. Do you?”

JI’s Rehman is also involved with Kashmir-based Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), which, like Hamas, is found on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). In August 2016, Rehman held a press conference with HM Chief Syed Salahudeen, who himself has been named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. (SDGT), to mourn the death of HM Commander Burhan Wani, who was killed by Indian security forces one month earlier. According to HM’s now-defunct website, at a February 2017 rally, Rehman said Wani’s “martyrdom… provide Kashmir movement with a new life” and “Kashmir would be liberated through Jihad only.”

In October 2017, ICNA’s overseas relief apparatus, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD), announced the establishment of what it called a “comprehensive rehabilitation center and neurological diseases hospital in Karachi.” In its announcement, HHRD stated that Rehman, who was then-Chief of Al-Khidmat Karachi, a.k.a. Al-Khidmat Welfare Society (AKWS), pledged his group’s support for the project and said that his group’s volunteers would assist HHRD “in Karachi and entire Pakistan.”

Nearly two decades ago, HHRD signed a working agreement with Al-Khidmat Karachi. It states the following: “Helping Hand/ICNA Relief is a division of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)… Helping Hand and Al-Khidmat Welfare Society (AKWS) have entered into an agreement to work jointly for the welfare and development of the deprived masses of Pakistan. According to this agreement signed in November 2000 AKWS will be representing Helping Hand in Pakistan in all its humanitarian activities.”

Today, one finds the Helping Hand logo right on the homepage of Al-Khidmat Karachi’s website.

With regard to al-Khidmat, ICNA appears to have no problem working with a group that associates with terrorists and terrorist organizations. However, ICNA also has no problem working with terrorist groups, themselves.

In December 2017, HHRP arranged a function held in Timergara, Pakistan reportedly to recognize World Disability Day. Participants included two representatives from the Al-Khidmat Foundation, Yaqub ur Rehman and Inayat ur Rehman, as well as the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) Timergara Chief Qari Rehmatullah. In November 2010, the State Department designated FIF as a terrorist organization, labeling FIF an “alias” of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2019 Pulwama suicide bombing on India’s Armed Forces in Kashmir.

At ICNA’s rallies for Kashmir, ICNA has been claiming that India is practicing “state terrorism” with regard to its dealings in Kashmir. As this author has shown, this is the utmost in hypocrisy, as ICNA is: linked to terrorist groups, including financially; harbors terrorists, as in the case of Ashrafuz Zaman Khan; and works directly with terrorist groups, as in the case of FIF. As such, ICNA should be considered a threat to national security and should be banned from operating inside America and globally.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.

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