U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir

The State Department blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (known as Syed Salahuddin), (2nd from right), the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group
The State Department recently blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (known as Syed Salahuddin), (2nd from right),  leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group (Photo: SAJJAD QAYYUM/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. sanctioned the leader of an Islamist terrorist group in Kashmir named Hizbul Mujahideen late last month. The move targets an ideological ally of the U.S.-based Muslims of America organization (MOA), a cultish group known for its “Islamic villages” like Islamberg that is expressing support for the Kashmir terrorist group.

On June 26, the State Department blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (commonly known as Syed Salahuddin), the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group that fights in Kashmir against India and operates in Pakistan with backing from the Pakistani government.

Pakistan condemned the U.S. action.

Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest militant force in Kashmir. It condemns nationalism and democracy. It fights to create a theocratic Islamic state and caliphate. It is also closely linked to other Pakistani terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliates.

MOA’s extremist leader, Sheikh Gilani, is based in Lahore, Pakistan and has long been involved in this circle of Pakistani terrorist groups. A 2003 FBI report says MOA acts as a conduit to groups in Pakistan affiliated with Al-Qaeda. This is substantiated by a former MOA member who went to Pakistan.

That is why it is so concerning that Muslims of America, a group that has boasted of having 22 “Islamic villages” in the U.S., is expressing solidarity with Hizbul Mujahideen.

MOA’s relationship with the group goes as far back as 1990.

Click here for FuqraFiles.com, the authoritative database on Muslims of America (also known as Jamaat ul-Fuqra)

On May 2, MOA announced a “multi-dimensional campaign” to “liberate” Kashmir from India. Its written statement was essentially a declaration to Muslims that Allah requires them to rally behind Hizbul Mujahideen.

It exalts the “charismatic leadership” of Burhan Wani, a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed last year. It credits him with inspiring “a new generation of fearless youth” and “freedom fighters.” MOA depicts the terrorist group as the face of the Kashmiri resistance to India.

In August 2016, MOA’s newspaper condemned India for killing a “top pro-independence militant leader.” Based on the wording, you’d think MOA was talking about a Kashmiri George Washington. Actually, it was Hizbul Mujahideen’s operations commander. MOA’s coverage presented the group as enjoying massive popular support.

In March 2017, MOA’s newspaper covered a battle between Indian forces and Hizbul Mujahideen and sided with the jihadists. It referred to them as “Kashmiri freedom fighters” contesting the “oppressive and violent treatment of the Kashmiri people by Indian forces.”

There’s good reason to suspect that MOA is providing Hizbul Mujahideen with more than sympathy.

MOA has a long relationship with the terrorist group. In 1990, MOA even wrote a public letter calling on all Muslims to contribute to jihad in Kashmir and to support the “Kashmir Freedom Front,” which was essentially another name for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Jihadis in Kashmir
Jihadis in Kashmir (Photo: SAJJAD QAYYUM/AFP/Getty Images)

On July 6, 2016, MOA published a public letter to the U.N. that said Muslims in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir are required to defend the Kashmiris against India “by every possible means.” Gilani and MOA have had a long presence in Kashmir, including a village named “Gillaniville.” Therefore, the letter is declaring that MOA is obligated to become involved “by every possible means.”

The letter also called on Muslim countries to unite into a single organization with a single force for intervention in places where Muslims are oppressed. In other words, to form a caliphate. MOA’s ideology has always been in favor of a caliphate, theocratic sharia law and violent jihad in places like Kashmir.

MOA’s May 2 press conference emphasized activism and humanitarian aid, but it did not reject violence or supporting violent elements.

In fact, MOA endorsed jihad by calling on Pakistan to intervene against the Indian military, an obviously violent action. Additionally, MOA’s claim that India is engaged in “genocide” would make jihad defensible, if not mandatory, to any Muslim audience.

The online statement announces its support for Kashmiris’ “struggle for self-determination.” Struggle is the synonym for jihad. That same statement heaps praise upon Hizbul Mujahideen for its jihad against India. MOA obviously chose to avoid using the eye-catching word in favor of the vaguer synonym, knowing that a Muslim audience would understand that it is referring to jihad.

MOA chief executive Hussein Adams, son of convicted terrorist Barry Adams, boasted at the May 2 press conference that MOA has been involved in supporting the Kashmiri “struggle” since the 1980s. Of course, he didn’t mention their involvement in jihad and soliciting of support for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Their own documents acknowledge this violent role in the Kashmir jihad. It is also seen in a secret video by Sheikh Gilani filmed and distributed among some MOA members in 1991-1993. Gilani explicitly says that MOA communes in North America can facilitate such training for jihad in places where Muslims are in battle, with Kashmir being the top priority. Training was open to Muslims outside of MOA.

“Sheikh Gilani’s tape, which I was the first to publicly release long excerpts of, showed that MOA’s public face is different than what it says and does in private. This is undeniable proof that MOA was engaged in terrorism and that Gilani used his American camps to train and recruit terrorists for Kashmir and other places,” Martin Mawyer, president of the Christian Action Network told Clarion Project.

The Clarion Project later obtained and released a video of women at Islamberg receiving guerilla training that was filmed in 2001-2002.

MOA spoke of its providing of money, food, supplies and medical to Kashmiris using two fronts: The Kashmir American Friendship Society and the American Muslim Medical Relief Team. We know from government reports and prosecutions that MOA sends money, personnel and material to Gilani in Pakistan for more extremist purposes.

MOA complained that its applications for its “journalists” with its newspapers to go to Pakistan and Kashmir are not being approved. Obviously, the Pakistani government and/or the U.S. government don’t see their trips to Pakistan so innocuously.

This issue exposes a gap in America’s national security policy: Neither Hizbul Mujahideen nor Jamaat ul-Fuqra (the original informal name of MOA) are on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

A dozen Muslim organizations in North America have asked the State Department to review Fuqra/MOA for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as it fits the listed criteria. The case for designating Hizbul Mujahideen is much stronger, as the State Department has just acknowledged that it fits the criteria for its leader to be blacklisted as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

The State Department acknowledges that Hizbul Mujahideen fits the definition of a Foreign Terrorist Organization and it should now designate it as such. Doing so could sever whatever material relationship exists between Hizbul Mujahideen and Islamists in America like MOA and enable investigations and prosecutions of jihadists in America involved with the Pakistan-backed terrorist group.

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Mauro
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow and national security analyst and an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.