The Clarion Project has learned from a first-hand source in Pakistan that the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a major terrorist group harbored by the Pakistani government, expressed support for the Islamic State in a recent sermon.
The story breaks as Pakistani embassy is condemning the television show Homeland for depicting Pakistani government officials as complicit in terrorism.
The Clarion Projectâ€™s source, whose identity has been verified and will be referred to as â€œAamir,â€ recently attended a public sermon by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed at the groupâ€™s Jamia Markaz al-Qadsi headquarters in Lahore. JUD is a rebranding of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET). The group is best known for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India that killed over 150 innocents.
The U.S. State Department lists JUD/LET as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and says it has links to Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami in Bangladesh, the Indian Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed. The U.S. Treasury Department says it works with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and targets U.S. and Afghan forces.
The event was heavily guarded with Saeedâ€™s own security team equipped with assault rifles. The bulk of the sermon was dedicated to promoting jihad against the U.S. and India in order to â€œsave Islam.â€ Saeed explicitly told attendees to donate to jihad and even recommended registering at a website to fight. Other reports have confirmed the placement of donation boxes for jihad at his events.
Saeed said that the current jihad against America is the same one that was waged against the Soviet Union and that the U.S. is already showing it will suffer the same fate. He boasted that America is so intimidated by him that it is even afraid of his name. Attendees responded with chants of jihad.
Aamirâ€™s report matches Saeedâ€™s bravado. After the U.S. announced a $10 million award for his information leading to his arrest, he held a public rally next to a Pakistani base that is only 40 minutes from the U.S. embassy.
â€œAmerica should give that reward money to me,â€ Saeed joked. â€œI am here. I am visible.â€
According to Aamir, Saeed explicitly endorsed jihad against the U.S. in Afghanistan, against India in Kashmir and against the U.S. in Iraq, where American forces are battling the Islamic State.
Saeedâ€™s group is taking a similar stance as other Al-Qaeda-linked groups in endorsing the Islamic State as a group but stopping short of granting legitimacy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a caliph.
However, Saeed is also on record as criticizing the Islamic State for massacring Muslims as â€œapostatesâ€ and suggested it should focus on destroying Israel. Earlier this month, he said heâ€™d say to the Islamic State, â€œI invite you, you are sitting near the Israel boarder, go and destroy the Israeli Jewish [sic].â€
What Saeed said to an attendee indicates he is privately more supportive of the Islamic State than his public speeches reveal. Someone from the audience approached Saeed about his implied declaration of the Islamic State as an ally and asked about the groupâ€™s presence in Pakistan.
The source was shocked at Saeedâ€™s answer. He said that the Islamic State represents pure Islam and predicted that it would take over Pakistan and seize its nuclear weapons. Saeed emphasized that the Islamic State means no harm towards Sunnis and so it should not be feared.
The immediate focus on nuclear weapons is in line with previous comments. In June, Saeed praised Pakistanâ€™s nuclear arsenal and he took part in a rally in May celebrating the anniversary of Pakistanâ€™s first nuclear weapons test.
In 2011, Saeed and another JUD leader said at a rally that Pakistan must wage jihad against India over Kashmir, even if it means nuclear war. Saeed has reportedly said that Pakistan should share its nuclear weapons with other Islamic countries. Abdul-Qadeer Khan, the â€œfatherâ€ of Pakistanâ€™s nuclear weapons arsenal, is linked to JUD/LET.
Aamir said that Islamist groups in the country are becoming more supportive of the Islamic State group, even if they donâ€™t swear allegiance to it or endorse al-Baghdadi as caliph. Increasing numbers of individuals are pledging to it and even putting pro-Islamic State bumper stickers on their cars, he said.
Even tepid support from JUD would dramatically boost the Islamic Stateâ€™s fortunes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where its support is already rising. The Islamic State has been endorsed by the Jundullah terrorist group and six Pakistani Taliban commanders have sworn allegiance. It is also approaching Lashkar-e-Jhangv.
JUD is considered the â€œmost dangerous terrorist group operating in South Asiaâ€ besides Al-Qaeda. It has been estimated to have 150,000 members, but a Pakistani journalist named Arif Jamal who wrote a book about JUD/LET says it commands at least 500,000 armed men.
It operates like a â€œstate within a stateâ€ in Pakistan. It has boasted of having over 200 schools, as well as hospitals, charities, mosques and even ambulances and blood banks. The group has over 2,000 doctors in its medical services and 60,000 subscribers to its monthly magazine published in Urdu.
In 1998, Saeed vowed his group would â€œultimately plant the flag of Islam on [New] Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington. All evil in the world emanated from the White House, which would be blown upâ€¦â€
Its fierce Islamism and anti-Americanism creates a pool of recruits for groups like the Islamic State and encourages homegrown terrorism. It has an English website and Jamal says it has a major presence in the United Kingdom and a European headquarters in Paris.
â€œThe U.S. and British governments have both acquired overwhelming evidence that â€˜homegrownâ€™ terror cells seeking instruction at â€˜realâ€™ terrorist training camps frequently end up at either facilities run by LET or JEM [Jaish-e-Mohammed]. JEM is essentially seen as an equal substitute for LET if the latter is unavailable,â€ says terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann.
The revelation that Saeed and JUD is speaking supportively of the Islamic State is an embarrassment for Pakistan when its government is railing against the American television show Homeland for presenting the Pakistani government as a sponsor of terrorism.
Aamir said the world needs to focus on the entire Pakistani infrastructure that promotes a â€œfascist totalitarian ideology.â€
He named JUD, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and Tablighi Jamaat as Islamist groups who openly promote this ideology in Pakistan.
The madrasses indoctrinate children with a â€œsense of siegeâ€ by constantly saying that Islam and Muslims everywhere are facing a dire threat from non-Muslim oppressors and that only Muslims are fit to rule.
He said anti-Semitism is common in their education and that infidel adversaries are portrayed as cowards who run from confrontations with devout Muslims. There are even prayers for the elimination of Israel and poetry about jihad.
The Islamist clerics often preach that â€œIslam is a religion of peace,â€ but that does not mean non-violence. The violent jihad waged by â€œpeacefulâ€ Muslims is a response to the oppression of Zionists, infidels and kuffars. These same mosques will have copies of â€œ44 Ways to Support Jihadâ€ by Anwar al-Awlaki, for example.
When these clerics do condemn terrorism committed by Muslim extremists, it is framed as a byproduct of non-Muslim aggression (especially U.S. drone strikes) or even the work of an anti-Islam conspiracy.
Aamir expressed deep concern about the negative impact on society and especially women due to the Islamistsâ€™ use of sexual propaganda in indoctrinating boys before they even reach puberty. He said that stories of the Taliban and other terroristsâ€™ sexually abusing boys are not hard to come by.
Pakistanâ€™s status as an â€œallyâ€ must not depend on its arrests of Al-Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or its offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan. This is done because of their attacks inside Pakistan and is not part of a strategy against all Islamist terrorists and radicals.
From 2002 through 2014, Pakistan has been the recipient of $28 billion in U.S. aid. If Pakistan wants to be an ally of the U.S. and continue to reap those benefits, it needs to dismantle JUD and every other Islamist terrorist network operating from within its borders.
As it stands now, T.V. shows like Homeland are closer to reality than fiction.