The Middle East Forum's Islamist Watch project has been working to understand and explain the threat of South Asian Islamist movements for the last two years, working with the Indian and Bangladeshi diaspora, thinktanks and media, American journalists, Congress and the Trump administration.
We are one of the only organizations outside of the Bangladeshi and Indian diasporas to draw attention to the danger posed by South Asian Islamists and their U.S. front groups.
Our efforts are showing strong signs of success. Here are a few examples of our work:
- In January 2018, writing for National Review, we uncovered that a leading American Islamist network known as the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which has received millions of dollars of federal grant money, had its charitable sister organization, Helping Hand for Relief and Development, openly partner with Lashkar-e-Taiba at a conference in Pakistan. Our discovery led to questions asked of the federal government by leading congressmen.
- Soon after, we published an article revealing that members of Jamaat-e-Islami's branch in Bangladesh had flown to Washington D.C. to lobby the U.S. government and Washington policy analysts, in an attempt to downplay Jamaat-e-Islami's violent extremism.
- In September 2018, we were the only organization to cover a federal court case in Connecticut, at which a fundraiser for Jamaat-e-Islami's main U.S. branch was charged with lying to the FBI. At the time, we speculated that the case might be part of a wider terror finance investigation. We were proved right. It later emerged that the FBI believed Fareed Khan, who worked for ICNA, was part of a network financing Lashkar-e-Taiba.
- In 2018, we partnered with Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN) to introduce H.Res. 1156, a resolution calling out Jamaat-e-Islami's activities in Bangladesh. This congressional resolution, which was co-sponsored by Congresswoman and recent presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, was covered widely by South Asian media outlets.
- Our research and activism caught the eye of the Hudson Institute, a major Washington D.C. thinktank. We jointly organized an event at its offices in December 2018, at which Congressman Banks spoke. You can view a recording of that event here. We believe this is the first time a D.C. thinktank had discussed the threat of Jamaat-e-Islami, despite its long history of involvement with terrorism in India and Bangladesh.
- In the new Congress in February 2019, we worked with Congressman Banks again to introduce a new resolution H.Res. 160. As before, this resolution denounced the activities of Jamaat-e-Islami, but it also cited the Middle East Forum's research into anti-Indian Islamist groups here in the U.S., including Helping Hand for Relief and Development, an enormous aid charity that we discovered had partnered with Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba. H. Res 160 currently has 8 sponsors.
- Around the same time, we published a series of articles in major D.C. publications, including the Washington Examiner, Morning Consult and Real Clear Defense. We also began to work more closely with a number of South Asian organizations dedicated to opposing the Islamist threat, such as the South Asian Minorities Alliance Foundation (SAMAF), the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), among others.
- We were the first organization to notice that American Islamists were working to exploit the question of Kashmir, deceiving American media and miseducating American politicians, while mobilizing the same infrastructure used to campaign against Israel to focus on India as well. Writing in India's Daily O, we revealed that American Jamaat-e-Islami proxies were working with known agents of Pakistan's ISI.
- In November 2019, we assisted several congressional offices who were writing a letter to the State Department's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales, requesting the U.S. government investigate the domestic proxies of South Asian Islamist groups and their ties to terrorists in Kashmir.
- That same month, we hosted another event in the Capitol with Congressman Banks, and with the support of the Indian embassy. Our event (which you can view here) was covered widely in Indian and Bangladeshi press.
- In December of 2019, we wrote a detailed article for India's The Print explaining how Jamaat-e-Islami proxies were working in the US to distort India's image and put forth a more Islamist, pro-Pakistan narrative, and these same groups links to terror finance and support.
- Showing that our work is an unequivocal success, in late 2019, we discovered that Jamaat-e-Islami had responded by using an enormous taxpayer-funded umbrella group to lobby Congress on its behalf against MEF. Radical activists and their fellow travelers had been meeting with policymakers to attack our research, and to try to justify their partnerships with terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. We revealed the entire affair in another article for National Review. Our research was syndicated by outlets including Yahoo News, while dozens of major Indian newspapers and wire services reported our findings.
- In May 2020, partnering with an Indian counter-terrorism expert, we wrote a 3,000 word investigative essay on the radical ties of Tablighi Jamaat, publishing in India's Sunday Guardian.
- Most recently, we have exposed the terror ties of the anti-Indian Stand With Kashmir movement. Writing for India's The Print, our exposé was shared by thousands on social media.
- We have recently given interviews to the Hindu American Foundation (listen here) and the Sham Sharma Show (watch here), which have been heard by tens of thousands.
- Writing again for India's Sunday Guardian, we exposed how a major law-firm, Perkins Coie, most famously responsible for the so-called "Steele Dossier" of implausible allegations against President Trump, was involved in peddling false information to Congress on behalf of Jamaat-e-Islami franchise groups. We thoroughly rebutted their obfuscations.
- Because of our research and activism, we have briefed American, Canadian and Indian intelligence officials, at their request, on the domestic activities of groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami.
We need your support to carry on tracking, investigating and exposing South Asian Islamist movements. With your help, we can convince Congress, the Administration, policy analysts and journalists of the extremism and violence of these radical movements, and urge them to investigate and take action.
Over the next year, we will:
- Continue to expose the extremists behind the Stand With Kashmir movement and their cheerleaders in academia
- Monitor federal funding for religious groups, and through legislation and lobbying of the administration, seek an end to all federal funding to groups with ties to South Asian Islamist movements.
- Work even more closely with Hindu, secular and reformist Muslim activists.
- Uncover American mosques' funding for terror-tied Deobandi madrassahs in South Asia.
- Investigate further examples of American Islamist groups partnering with proxies for Kashmiri terrorism.
- Study and publish individual and PAC campaign contributions to state and federal political campaigns by known American Islamists tied to Jamaat-e-Islami and other South Asian Islamist movements.
- Present our research to media outlets and producers.
- Brief law enforcement, legislators, congressional committee staff and senior administration officials about our findings
- Continue working to advance congressional resolutions requiring the federal government to investigate the activities of South Asian Islamist movements.
We cannot do this work without raising new funds earmarked for these specific projects. We need your help to push back against the enormous, wealthy network of South Asian Islamist movements active in North America, who have already hired powerful law firms, media consultants and lobbyists to advance their interests and attack our research. Help us fight back.