Speakers at the event were 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. Founder and CEO of Usanas Foundation Abhinav Pandya moderated the Webinar last week. The Foundation organised websinar.
Abha Shankar threw light on the functioning of radical Islamic organisations indulging in anti-India activities in the US. 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. IPT investigations have exposed close ties between USCMO and Turkey. After the abrogation of Article 370, a USCMO delegation met with Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) President Sardar Masood Khan and pledged their support for self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)…”
Another important group is the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) founded in 1994. The organisation operates under the guise of a civil rights group. It has roots in a Muslim Brotherhood-created network.
Last month, CAIR’s chapter in Philadelphia hosted a webinar featuring Hafsa Kanjwal, a rising star of the Kashmir separatist movement in the U.S. and co-founder of Stand with Kashmir, a group that defends violent Islamists and terrorists.
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a top Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) group in the U.S. that was founded in the 1960s by Jamaatis who had emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ghulam Nabi Fai routinely speaks at ICNA events.
Sam Westrop highlighted that there are hundreds of Ismalist charities in Western countries. However, two are the most prominent ones: Islamic Relief – set up by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Muslim Aid – set up by Jamaat-e-Islami. Both these charities receive tens of thousands of dollars by the Western governments.
He further 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.”
On the growing anti-Indian activism in the United States, he noted: “In Texas, there is a considerable network that is pushing the Kashmir agenda. Not just politicians, but also the family members of terrorists are joining the events. These whole new groups are being set up to provoke terrorism.”
On the functioning of Islamists throughout the US, he argued that there are two ways to do this. “One is charity and the second is lobbying. On the first, India can take lead in challenging the charity groups operating in the West and helping the radical groups in India. As for the second, a lot of foreign Islamist groups are influencing domestic politics in the West. There is a need to check how Islamist PACs and lobby groups fundraise and operate.”
Clifford Smith argued that there are three broad categories of anti-India forces in the US. First, there are groups of Pakistani-sponsored anti-Indian forces. Second are the South Asian Islamist groups like Islamic Centre in North America and Helping Hands – they have an Islamist ideology. Third, you have the Middle Eastern Islamist groups. The Islamist organizations have allies in Congress.
On the idea of terror financing through Islamic charity organisations, he opined, “How does that matter if money is going directly to terrorism if a charity is being directed by groups with a theocratic agenda and has connections with terrorist outfits? The money would find a way to help their cause if the ideology is the driving force…”