Pakistani-American Muslim Clerics and the Taliban
by Irfan Al-Alawi
On Saturday, May 14, three Muslims of Pakistani origin were arrested in Florida and charged with raising money for the Pakistani Taliban, designated a terrorist organization by U.S. authorities last year.
The Miami arrests come two weeks after the revelation that Osama Bin Laden had been concealed in an extensive compound at a Pakistani military resort, and while Americans are struggling with the recognition that the Pakistan government, infiltrated deeply by terror sympathizers, is an ambivalent participant in the war against the Taliban. The case underscores what my colleagues and I at the Center for Islamic Pluralism have argued for many years: that Pakistan's rulers are enablers, rather than opponents, of radical Islam.
We have also pointed out insistently that Islamist penetration of the Pakistani Muslim communities is not limited to the country itself, but extends to Britain, where Pakistani Muslims are a majority of all Muslims, as well as to the U.S., where they form a plurality of born Muslims of foreign background.
Pakistan approaches failure as a state, and sees increasing terror within its own borders, but is armed with nuclear weapons. The threat of atomic blackmail prevents effective change within Pakistan's ruling circles, especially under pressure from foreign governments.
Incredibly, while Pakistan sinks deeper into chaos, the Western political elite remains seemingly paralyzed by the spectacle of Pakistan's collapse, as it has been since the horrific Mumbai terror rampage in India in 2008. The only concern in Washington and London appears to be to identify alleged "moderate Taliban" with whom a peace agreement may be signed.
Such a "truce," however, would surrender most, if not all, of Afghanistan to the Taliban and strengthen dramatically their influence in Pakistan, among Pakistani Muslims in the U.S. and UK, and even among Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims.
A father and his two sons, Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, of Miami, Izhar Khan, 24, also of Miami, and Irfan Khan, 37, of North Lauderdale, have been indicted for transferring funds to purchase arms, train violent extremists, and maintain a radical madrassa [religious school] in Pakistan.
Hafiz Khan happens to be the imam of the Miami Mosque, nicknamed the "Flagler mosque," because of its proximity to Flagler Street, a prominent thoroughfare; it claims to be the oldest mosque in the greater Miami area. Izhar Khan is the imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque in Margate, Fla., north and inland from Miami.
Hafiz and Izhar Khan were detained in Florida, while Irfan Khan was arrested in Los Angeles.
Three more people, now in Pakistan, are also charged in the case. They are Hafiz Khan's daughter Amina Khan; Alam Zeb, her son; and Ali Rehman. Prosecutors declared that the accused were assisted "by others in the United States and Pakistan."
The indictment in the case includes the following: "It was the purpose and object of the conspiracy to advance the jihad of the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani government and its perceived allies, including the United States, in order to displace the lawful government of Pakistan and to establish Sharia (as exclusive public law)… Members of the conspiracy created a network for the flow of money from inside the United States to Pakistan for the benefit of the Pakistani Taliban and its supporters... sought the purchase of guns for the Pakistani Taliban... provided shelter to members of the Pakistani Taliban and prepared youths to become mujahideen.
"[Hafiz] Khan and Irfan [Khan] participated in a conversation in which [Hafiz] Khan called for an attack on the Pakistani Assembly that would resemble the September 2008 suicide bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan… [Hafiz] Khan and an unindicted co-conspirator... called for the destruction of the Pakistani government and discussed a strategy to shoot and kill Pakistani officials."
Since his arrest, Hafiz Khan has been "suspended indefinitely" as imam of the "Flagler mosque" by the Muslim Communities Association (MCA) of South Florida, which administers the institution along with another local mosque. U.S. government representatives were quick to absolve ordinary members of the mosques from any involvement in the criminal activities with which the imams were charged. It is unquestionable, however, that both mosques are aligned with radical interpretations of Islam. The "Flagler mosque" does not have a website, but both the MCA and it are affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a bulwark of Muslim fundamentalism.
The Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque in Margate, directed by Hafiz Khan's son and co-defendant Izhar, does have a website. Under the heading of "Links," it takes the visitor to a site promoting the anti-modernist writings of the Turkish Islamist Adnan Oktar, who calls himself "Harun Yahya," the Islamic equivalent of "Aaron John." According to the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque, "this web site has been developed with the aim of promoting and publicizing the works of Harun Yahya, a prominent Turkish thinker and author. The books of Harun Yahya and thus this web site seek to recall various crucial facts, which people are led to disregard and even deny under the influence of the turmoil of the modern age."
The so-called "crucial facts" in the elaborate and extravagant books and other media disseminated in many languages around the world by "Harun Yahya" have earned him a well-deserved reputation as bizarre figures among Muslims. They include claims that fascism and Communism were products of Darwinism. Above all, the "Harun Yahya" enterprise feeds conspiracy theories rampant in Turkish political life by asserting that the Ottoman empire and caliphate were destroyed by "atheist Freemasonry."
By their endorsement of "Harun Yahya," Izhar Khan's leadership of the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque advertises an affinity for deviant Islamist views. Involvement with financial support for the Pakistani Taliban is a natural parallel to enthusiasm for Turkish delusions about history: advocates of both blame the West for misfortunes that have befallen the world's Muslims.
Unfortunately, we have concluded that the problems affecting Islam in Pakistan and in the Pakistani immigrant communities will no more be resolved easily than was the challenge to the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, when it was revealed that the Al-Qaida terrorists led by Bin Laden were financed by, and recruited among, Wahhabis in the kingdom.
In the meantime, expect more bloodshed and more radicalisation across the subcontinent, as well as more arrests and attempted atrocities in countries far from South Asia.