Book Review: The cancer of jihad and reforming Islam – David Frawley

Tufail Ahmad
Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)Some Leftists may be unhappy that Tufail Ahmad exposes Indian secularism as a pandering to minority vote banks that excuses jihad. It is not just the conservative elements in Islamic society that suppress Islamic reformers, it is also the Left and liberal elements in India and the West, who … excuse fundamentalism, if not terrorism, coming from Islamic groups. – Dr David Frawley

Tufail Ahmad is a powerful and provocative voice for reform in Islamic society and in India in particular. He is also a key expert on national security issues in India, which is under siege by jihad.

His recent book—Jihadist Threat to India: The Case for Islamic Reformation by an Indian Muslim—is probably the most in-depth study of jihad, terrorism in India available, extending to its global implications.

Ahmad’s background is quite relevant, from a student at madrasas in Bihar, to study at JNU and work at the BBC. He knows his issues from the inside, having examined jihadi literature extensively. He does not have to rely upon secondary sources, nor does he excuse jihad for vested political or religious interests.

In short, he tells it like it is.

India flag desecrated in Pakistan by baby jihadi.Jihad and Pakistan’s war on India

Ahmad details how the Al-Qaeda threat to India has arisen through the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He explains how ISIS is slowly radicalising Muslims in a number of states in India, with little scrutiny.

Behind the threat in India, he reveals how jihad is linked to the history of Pakistan and its identity as a nation. Pakistan is by nature if not a jihadi state, a state promoting jihadi sympathies and training jihadi warriors. This mentality extends to Pakistani textbooks that teach students to hate India with a religious fervour.

Yet Pakistani jihad is not just aimed at India, it is used to control minorities within the country, particularly Balochistan, which is subject to a brutal and violent suppression. This is because Pakistan’s identity is defined by religion and remains precarious when people awaken to their local needs.

Ahmad uncovers Pakistan’s support from Saudi Arabia, as well as Saudi’s support for global jihad through its well-funded network of madrasas. Sympathy to jihadist activity is taught in Saudi funded and Deobandi schools throughout the subcontinent.

Ahmad examines the scope of global jihad, including the role of the US, Britain and Europe, noting the great blunders made by the West in dealing with it. Jihadist terrorism is not about disenfranchised or poor young Muslims who have no jobs or alternatives to express themselves. It is not about young Muslims in western countries who feel culturally inferior or rejected. Such factors may provide some fertile ground for jihad but do not cause it.

To put it simply, jihadist terrorism is part of a proxy war. It cannot flourish without significant state support. Pakistan remains the focus of this proxy war relative to India, with Saudi help in the background, and an outdated Islamic theology as its ideological mooring.

Muslim women in MumbaiSeveral other Islamic countries have lended state support to jihad or turned their eyes aside from terrorist funding from within their own borders.

A call for reform in Islam

Ahmad raises a compelling case for reform in Islamic society, notably promoting a secular education for the Muslim youth, particularly girls between the formative ages of 6-14. It is sad that governments are not taking up the cause of proper modern education for Muslim children, especially the girls, nor are NGOs.

Some Muslims may not be happy with his call for reform being combined with promoting India’s national security interests. But the fact is that jihad is a great danger to Muslims as well non-Muslims, such as we see occurring in Syria and in the attacks on Shias and Sufi sites in Pakistan.

Some Leftists may be unhappy that he exposes Indian secularism as a pandering to minority vote banks that excuses jihad. It is not just the conservative elements in Islamic society that suppress Islamic reformers, it is also the Left and liberal elements in India and the West, who promote reform movements in their own societies, yet excuse fundamentalism, if not terrorism, coming from Islamic groups.

Jihadist Threat to India should be read carefully by all Indians concerned about the future of the country and by all those in the world who wish to know the roots of global jihad. Such Islamic reformers as Tufail Ahmad should be studied and supported, as the solutions to these grave problems are most likely to arise from their insights. – Daily-O, 30 April 2016

» Dr David Frawley is a Vedacharya and includes in his unusual wide scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient teachings of the oldest Rigveda. Contact him at vedanet@aol.com.

» Tufail Ahmad is an author, commentator on South Asian current affairs, newspaper columnist, ex-BBC journalist, researcher and informed critic of everyday Islamism. He is also the Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Washington, DC. Contact him at contact@tufailahmad.com.

Jihadist Threat To India

Farooq Mohammad Bhana: Key accused in the Godhra train burning case arrested – PTI

Godhra Junction

Farooq Bhana

Terrorist throwing molotov cocktailAccording to the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad officials, Farooq Mohammad Bhana was a corporator in Godhra when the incident took place. To evade arrest, he then moved to Mumbai where he became a property broker. – PTI

Fourteen years after a frenzied mob torched a coach of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra station, killing 59 kar sevaks, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) today arrested Farooq Mohammad Bhana, a key accused in the carnage that sparked riots in the state.

Based on a specific tip-off, an ATS team nabbed Bhana at a toll plaza near Kalol town of Panchmahal district when he was coming to Godhra from Mumbai to meet his son, Inspector General (IG) of ATS J. K. Bhatt told a press conference here.

According to Bhatt, 55-year-old Bhana was one of the key accused who allegedly hatched the conspiracy to burn the S-6 coach of the train at Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.

Primary investigation has revealed that Bhana went to Pakistan, probably using a fake passport, after the incident and then came back to India ten years ago and started living in Andheri (East) suburb of Mumbai.

“Bhana was on the run since 2002. He was a corporator of Polan Bazar area of Godhra when the incident took place. It is alleged that on the night of February 26, Bhana and others held a meeting at Aman Guest House near the railway station as part of their conspiracy to set ablaze the S-6 coach of the train,” said Bhatt.

During the meeting, Bhana communicated a specific instruction of Maulana Husain Umerji to set ablaze the S-6 coach, for which, other co-accused collected 140 litres of petrol from a nearby petrol pump and stored it inside the guest house, said Bhatt.

Maulana Umerji, who was arrested as the alleged mastermind behind the incident, was later released, as no concrete evidence was found against him during the trial.

“Those who attended the meeting include one Salim Panwala, who used to do black marketing in railway tickets, guest house owner Abdul Razak and another corporator Bilal Haji among others. As decided in the meeting, the coach was set ablaze by a mob of around 1,000 at platform no.1 at around 7:45 AM,” said Bhatt.

59 kar sevaks, who were returning from Ayodhya, had lost their lives when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set ablaze at Godhra Railway Station, which triggered large scale riots in the state in which around 1,000 people, mostly of minority community, were killed.

Bhana came on ATS radar two months back after he made some visits to Godhra, as he never came back to his hometown after the incident and remained underground all these years.

“Bhana was living in a slum area of Andheri (East) in Mumbai since last ten years. Before that, he has joined Tabligi Jamat and travelled from one place to another in religious congregations, mainly to hide his identity and evade arrest. We also learned that he went to Pakistan during this period,” said Bhatt.

According to Bhatt, Bhana changed his name to ‘Shaikh Umar’ and started working as property broker in Mumbai. He even took small contracts of civic body. To hide his identity, he even grew a beard after the incident.

“We have been keeping a close watch on his movement since last two months, as we learned that he has started visiting Godhra. He might have thought it would be safe to come back as 16 years have passed, otherwise, he never came to Gujarat during this period,” said Bhatt.

After questioning, Bhana will be handed over to Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) for further action, added Bhatt.

During these 16 years, as many as 94 people have been arrested in the case.

About 31 were convicted by a special court. Out of them, 11 were sentenced to death while 20 were given life term. The case is at present pending for judgment in the Gujarat High Court.

“Before Bhana’s arrest today, we arrested three to four accused last year. Now, around seven are still absconding. Out of them, three are unidentified, as we don’t know their exact names, while names and details of 4 are available with us,” said Bhatt. – Deccan Herald, 18 May 2016

Sabarmati Express coach S-6 burning at Godhra railway station on 27 February 2002

Sabaramati Express train burning at Godhra

See also

  1. Godhra: The True Story – Nicole Elfi
  2. The Godhra Riots: Sifting Fact From Fiction – Nicole Elfi
  3. The Godhra Riots Postscript: The Masterminds – Nicole Elfi

Saudi Arabia backed the 9/11 attackers, says commission member John F. Lehman – Sahash Khanal

New York Daily News Front Page

Sahash Khanal“Saudi Arabia backed the 9/11 attacks, according to a former member of the 9/11 commission. In an interview with the Guardian, John F. Lehman revealed that the commission had found clear evidence of Saudi government employees being part of the support network for the September 11, 2001 attacks.” – Sahash Khanal

Saudi Arabia backed the 9/11 attacks, according to a former member of the 9/11 commission. In an interview with the Guardian, John F. Lehman revealed that the commission had found clear evidence of Saudi government employees being part of the support network for the September 11, 2001 attacks.

John F. Lehman, currently an investment banker working in New York and formerly the U.S. Navy Secretary for the Reagan Administration, was part of the 9/11 commission, a committee of experts put together by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of 9/11 to investigate the incident. Lehman has John F. Lehmanbecome the first commission member to publicly contradict the commission’s final report. Published in 2004, the report has no mentions of Saudi Arabia backing 9/11. In the interview, Lehman adds that he believes the Obama Administration should declassify a confidential congressional report on the Saudi’s ties with the 9/11 attacks.

Published in 2004, the 9/11 Commission’s report was largely criticized for its exoneration of Saudi Arabia. The report had found no evidence of collaboration between Riyadh and Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11. It had promptly concluded the following.

“Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of Al-Qaeda funding but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in their government,” Lehman told the Guardian. He was clearly implying that the commission had made a mistake in not revealing Saudi Arabia’s backing of the 9/11 attacks in their final report.

Purported links between the Arab Monarch and the deadly 9/11 attacks have, from the very beginning, been a subject of scrutiny given that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, including Osama Bin Laden, the notorious linchpin of Al-Qaeda, who, until his death in 2011, remained the most wanted man on Earth. Lehman, however, was clear in stating that he does not believe the Saudi royalty or the country’s senior leadership of having any role in supporting Al-Qaeda or the 9/11 plot.

Lehman was critical of the commission’s chairman, Republican and former governor of New Jersey Tom Kean, and its vice-chairman, Democrat and Indiana’s congressman Lee Hamilton, who have, time and again, cautioned the Obama administration against revealing the full congressional report on the Saudis and the 9/11 attacks, this including a classified section: “the 28 pages.” “The 28 pages” are said to contain “raw, unvetted” material that could potentially tarnish the reputation of innocent people.

In their statements, the chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, far from revealing any knowledge about Saudi Arabia backing the 9/11 attacks, have in fact repeatedly praised them, calling them, “an ally of the United States in combating terrorism.” The commission’s investigation had involved just one Saudi official, Fahad al-Thumairy, a diplomat in the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, in the investigation of the 9/11 plot who was suspected as being part of a support network for two Saudi hijackers who were living in San Diego a year before the attacks. Curiously, Thumairy was deported but was never convicted of any crime.

Lehman, in his interview, dismissed the findings of the investigation, calling them “a game of semantics” and revealing that the commission had identified at least five Saudi government officials who were, or might have been, involved. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence,” he says that could have indicted them.

After a tense visit to Riyadh last month, President Barack had disclosed that he and his administration were contemplating declassifying some or all of “the 28 pages.” This decision has since sparked quite a controversy. Several lawmakers have demanded that the documents be made public so that it can shed light on Saudi Arabia’s backing of 9/11. While others, like CIA director John O. Brennan, have opposed the idea of full disclosure, arguing it contained mostly inaccurate material that could potentially tarnish the reputation of innocent people. – Inquisitr, 13 May 2016

» Sahash Khanal reports from Nepal. He is a student of International Relations at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.

George Bush and Saudi King

Prof Mohamad BazziThe ’28 Pages’: Did the Saudis finance 9/11? – Mohamad Bazzi

“Saudi Arabia has not faced such a sustained level of criticism from its US ally in decades. … Leading members of both parties in Congress are pushing through [a] bill that would lift sovereign immunity and allow the Saudi leadership to be held responsible in US courts for 9/11….” –  Prof Mohamad Bazzi

For years, Saudi Arabia’s leaders have argued that the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks were Saudis is irrelevant. They insist there is no evidence Saudi officials or institutions provided a support network for al-Qaida and its hijackers. For a long time, Americans largely accepted that explanation.

But in recent months, the façade of Saudi Arabia as America’s most important ally in the Arab world and a force for stability in the Middle East has begun to crack. US public anger against Saudi Arabia is rising—over its war in Yemen, its treatment of women and dissidents and the use of its oil wealth to export extremist ideology by building mosques and dispatching preachers throughout the Muslim world. Prodded by some relatives of the 9/11 victims, Americans want a reexamination of whether any Saudi officials played a role in the attacks.

The most important debate today is over a classified 28-page section of a 2002 congressional report on the attacks, which the George W. Bush administration ordered kept secret. President Barack Obama has promised a decision on whether to declassify the material by next month. But the release of these so-called “28 pages” is even more urgent after a former member of the 9/11 Commission, an independent bipartisan panel that investigated the attacks in 2004, told the Guardian this week there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees helped some of the 9/11 hijackers.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” said John Lehman, a Republican who served as US navy secretary in the Reagan administration and was among 10 commission members. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

The Saudis claimed vindication after the 9/11 commission report concluded it “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaida terrorist group. (The report also added it “does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaida”.)

The narrow wording left open the possibility that lower-level Saudi government officials could have been involved in diverting funds to al-Qaida or in supporting the hijackers. This is why it’s essential for the Obama administration to declassify and release the 28 pages, even if they might contain “raw and unvetted” data from FBI files. The two leaders of the 9/11 commission—former New Jersey governor Tom Kean and former congressman Lee Hamilton—have long argued that only one Saudi official, a former diplomat in the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, was suspected of helping two of the Saudi hijackers, who lived in San Diego a year before the attacks.

But Lehman said the commission investigated at least five Saudi government officials, including employees of the kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, who potentially aided some of the hijackers. And former senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida, who was co-chairman of the 2002 congressional panel that investigated 9/11 (and produced the “28 pages”), insists that other Saudi individuals and institutions were complicit in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has not faced such a sustained level of criticism from its US ally in decades. A group of senators recently introduced a bill to place new restrictions on US weapons sales to the kingdom because of its war in Yemen. Leading members of both parties in Congress are pushing through another bill that would lift sovereign immunity and allow the Saudi leadership to be held responsible in US courts for 9/11 Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saudif victims’ families can prove that any Saudi officials played a role in the attacks. In response, Saudi leaders have threatened to sell off up to $750bn in US assets if the law is adopted.

The Saudi threats unleashed a new wave of anger against the House of Saud. The New York Daily News, for example, blared “Royal Scum” in a front-page headline about 9/11 families denouncing the Saudi “blackmail”.

Of course, the United States bears a significant part of the blame for its dysfunctional relationship with Saudi Arabia. Many Washington policymakers value the stability of the Saud regime above all else, and for decades they have been willing to turn a blind eye to the ruling family’s excesses and its support for Wahhabi fanaticism.

For years after 9/11, US officials tried to pressure their allies in Saudi Arabia and other “moderate” Arab regimes to crack down on financing for Islamic militants. But as the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks revealed, the Saudis were reluctant to shut off the flow of cash—millions of dollars a year, often raised during the holy periods of Hajj and Ramadan.

“It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority”, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a December 2009 cable addressed to US diplomats in the region. Eight years after September 11, she noted that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

Today, with pressure growing for the release of the redacted 28 pages, the American public deserves a fuller examination of Saudi Arabia’s role in financing terrorism. – The Guardian, 13 May 2016

» Prof Mohamad Bazzi teaches journalism at New York University. He is a former Middle East bureau chief at Newsday. He is writing a book on the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Zacarias Moussaoui

Dolkun Isa visa affair has left India red-faced – Kanchan Gupta

Kanchan Gupta“As in Tibet, Beijing has been trying to suppress and crush Uyghur nationalism and separatism through its triple policy of overwhelming force, sly co-option and massive resettlement, though not necessarily in that order. Inducements of office and power are offered to Uyghurs willing to collaborate with Beijing.” – Kanchan Gupta

In this era of e-activism which does not require activists, both wannabe and genuine, to march through streets in blistering heat or biting cold, social media has become the barricades of our times.

Consequently, to man the barricades has come to mean to rush to the keyboard and post your protest (or defence) on Twitter or Facebook.

You don’t chant rhyming slogans like “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, We shall fight and we shall win”; you coin hashtags and make them trend—nationally and globally.

Dolkun IsaConference

And so it came to pass that when news first broke of India granting a visa to Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa for attending a conference on China at Dharamsala, excited supporters and e-activists of the BJP reached for their keyboards to wave the flag and heap praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon, the hashtag #ModiSlapsChina was trending, fetching further excited chatter. It would seem this was the moment India was waiting for since the humiliation of 1962; the moment for revenge and redemption.

Few, if any, among those cheering the Modi government would have had heard of Dolkun Isa before this, or known of him as the Uyghur dissident who lives in exile in Germany and is believed to hold a German passport. Isa heads the World Uyghur Congress which has been campaigning for the rights of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

As in Tibet, Beijing has been trying to suppress and crush Uyghur nationalism and separatism through its triple policy of overwhelming force, sly co-option and massive resettlement, though not necessarily in that order. Inducements of office and power are offered to Uyghurs willing to collaborate with Beijing.

There are some takers, but the vast majority rejects China’s repressive rule and abhors the Han Chinese who have been ferried in as settlers with the aim of changing the demography of the province.

Over the decades, Beijing has modulated its position on Tibetan separatists. They are now called “splittists”. This is largely because little remains of the country the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 to seek shelter in India.

Compared to Tibet, Xinjiang is a different story. The indigenous Uyghur population, of Turkic extract, has refused to be bludgeoned into submission. Beneath the turbulent surface simmers fierce hate.

What has fuelled Muslim separatism is the global rise of jihadist Islamism. Beijing claims the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement, affiliated to al Qaeda, is behind the ethno-religious uprising by “terrorists”.

Dolkun Isa is accused by China of being a “terrorist” who uses his perch in Europe to mobilise funds and arms for Uyghur separatism. The accusation may be entirely untrue, but in the past other separatists have used liberal Europe’s shelter to mobilise resources for armed insurrection. Given this reality, it becomes difficult to scoff at China’s claim and accusation.

Masood AzharBut that is precisely what New Delhi was perceived as having done in response to China blocking India’s move at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to secure sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar who plotted and executed the Pathankot attack.

In the past, China has restrained India’s hand on Hafiz Saeed and his lieutenants in Lashkar-e-Taiba by invoking its right to block. Worse, China justified the protection it extended to Azhar by lecturing India on the need to be good friends with Pakistan, pretending its deed was that of a well-wisher, when in reality it was akin to sprinkling salt on India’s wound.

It’s this backdrop that made the visa for Dolkun Isa a big issue: India had done unto China what China had done unto India, or so the hashtag nationalists believed and proclaimed.

For more than a week the narrative gathered steam and the #ModiSlapsChina balloon grew bigger by the day. Oped-ists rushed in with their two-penny views. Foreign affairs analysts agonised over possible fallouts of a Modi-Xi clash.

The lusty cheers of e-activists grew into a cacophony of nationalist slogans. The barricades shook and looked as if their collapse under the force of Right triumphalism was imminent.

Protest

Then the least expected happened. The visa (it turned out to be an e-visa meant for tourists) was withdrawn. This was done after China lodged its protest with India for giving a visa to a “wanted terrorist” and pointed out that there was a “red corner” notice mandating Isa’s arrest if he were to arrive at an Indian port.

There were various explanations credited to unnamed sources on why the visa was cancelled: that Dolkun Isa could not have attended the Dharamsala conference with a tourist visa; that as a responsible country India could not have allowed unhindered travel to a person against whom there is a “red corner” notice; and, that it was never a considered decision to spite China by thumbing our collective nose at that country.

Interpol Notice LogosThese are lame excuses. A realistic explanation would be this was yet another halfway house act of standing up to China (or the mighty US and even puny Pakistan, for that matter).

When push came to shove, India, as always, meekly allowed itself to be shoved. The only other explanation would be this is another instance of two key ministries, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, not knowing what the other is up to.

Mystery

Either way it remains a mystery as to why the #ModiSlapsChina narrative was allowed to build up to a virtual point of no return. It also remains unexplained why India would feel constrained to issue a visa to a German national against whom China bears a grudge. We can be pretty sure China would not reciprocate in a similar manner.

Nor did China pillory the US for ignoring the “red corner” notice while opening its doors to Dolkun Isa. Foreign policy is largely about pushing, promoting and securing the national interest. And what is in the national interest is often bereft of moral principles, ethical niceties and obligations to the world at large. It is silly to even remotely suggest that India should play by the rulebook while dealing with China.

Sadly, the whole messy affair over the visa for Dolkun Isa suggests those who should be playing a crafty power game to push India’s national interest are either incapable of craftiness or simply gutless. Yet they are happy to ride the tide of hashtag nationalism till the tide recedes and a new one rolls in, this time bearing the hashtag #ChinaSlapsIndia. – Daily-O, 29 April 2016

» Kanchan Gupta is a popular columnist who writes on national and regional politics, international affairs and security issues.

Dolkun Isa Visa

The Tulsi Gabbard Interview – Manu Balachandran

Tulsi Gabbard & Narendra Modi in New York (28 September 2014)

Manu Balachandran“[Tulsi Gabbard is] one of the first two female combat veterans elected to US Congress and also its first Hindu and first American Samoan representative. … And this week, the 34-year-old congresswoman from Hawaii reminded everyone of it, as she broke ranks with the Democratic party establishment and relinquished her post as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 29 to endorse Bernie Sanders for president.” –  Manu Balachandran

Tulsi GabbardWashington has no shortage of politicians struggling to be seen as a maverick. But Tulsi Gabbard isn’t one of them.

As one of the first two female combat veterans elected to US Congress and also its first Hindu and first American Samoan representative, she wears the label quite easily. And this week, the 34-year-old congresswoman from Hawaii reminded everyone of it, as she broke ranks with the Democratic party establishment and relinquished her post as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 29 to endorse Bernie Sanders for president. (Her role with the DNC, the party’s governing body, would have required [her] to stay neutral in the election.)

Described last October by the Washington Post as “the Democrat that Republicans love and the DNC can’t control,” Gabbard offered a sample of her independent streak a year ago, when she spoke out of sync with her fellow Democrats and criticized US president Barack Obama’s handling of Islamic extremism—specifically over his unwillingness to brand ISIL an “Islamic” group. “[Obama] is completely missing the point of this radical Islamic ideology that’s fueling these people,” Gabbard told Fox News last February.

Her viewpoint on this subject is all the more notable given her military experience in the Middle East, where she served in a field medical unit in Iraq and was a trainer for the Kuwait National Guard.

Speaking at a fundraising event for the BJP in August 2014, where she articulated the plight of Hindus around the world who have suffered persecution, Gabbard said that Modi’s election victory was only possible because “people stood up, one by one by one by one, and said we will demand that this change occurs.”

In September 2014, the new Indian prime minister made it a point to meet Gabbard following his historic post-election speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden. And the congresswoman gave Modi a gift—a copy of the Bhagwad Gita that she swore by when elected to office—and assured him of her support for a Modi pet project of declaring an International Yoga day.

“We had a wide-ranging discussion on several issues our countries have in common, including how America and India can work together to help combat the global threat posed by Islamic extremism,” Gabbard said after the meeting.

With Modi set to stay in power until 2019, and Sanders doing better than expected in the Democratic primaries (or at least was up until March 1, when Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton handily won key states like Texas and Virginia in the “Super Tuesday” state contests), it can’t hurt the BJP and India to have a friend like Gabbard in the US.

On March 2, Gabbard answered questions from Quartz via email about her support of Modi, her approach to Hinduism, and the connection she draws between Islam and terrorism. The transcript below has been condensed and lightly edited:

Quartz: Could you tell us about your reasons for supporting the BJP and Narendra Modi, and why you referred to him being denied a visa as a “great blunder”?

Tulsi Gabbard: There are many different areas and sectors where the United States and India’s growing friendship can cover mutually beneficial ground such as defense, renewable energy, bilateral trade, and global environmental concerns such as climate change. Modi impressed me as a person who cares deeply about these issues and as a leader whose example and dedication to the people he serves should be an inspiration to elected officials everywhere.

It is very important that the US and India have a strong relationship of mutual respect. The denial of a visa to prime minister Modi could have undermined that relationship had he used it as an excuse to reject having a strong bilateral relationships with America. This would have been bad for both of our countries. For many reasons—not the least of which is the war against terrorists—the relationship between India and America is very important.

QZ: You took on the US president for his reluctance to name ISIS as an Islamic extremist group. Do you still stand by this criticism?

TG: In order to defeat the terrorists who have declared war on the United States and the rest of the world, we need to understand their ideology. In other words, the war can’t be won just militarily. We must defeat them in the ideological war, not just on the battlefield. In order to defeat their ideology, we need to recognize what their ideology is.

The ideology of these terrorists is “Islamism.” It is a radical political ideology of violent jihad aimed at bringing about an establishment of a totalitarian society governed by a particular interpretation of Islam as state law. Referring to terrorists as “Islamist extremists” is simply an accurate way to identify ISIS and other Islamist extremist organizations whose ideology is rooted in one form of Islamism or another.

The majority of Muslims are practicing the spiritual path of Islam within their own lives in a pluralistic, peaceful way. So by calling organizations like ISIS Islamic or Islamist extremists [emphasis hers], we are making a distinction between the vast majority of Muslims who are not extremists and a handful of those who are.

QZ: How much of that sentiment is influenced by your experience serving in the military in the Middle East, versus your interest in Hindu/Muslim conflicts in India?

TG: My experience serving in the Middle East has shaped many of my views. This has nothing to do with any “Hindus/Muslim” conflict in India or anywhere else. It comes from the understanding that in order to defeat the terrorists who have declared war on the United States and the rest of the world, we need to understand their ideology.

My two deployments in the Middle East reinforced the fundamental military wisdom that you can’t defeat an enemy if you don’t understand him. We cannot win this war if we do not understand our enemy’s goals, [or the] ideology that inspires them and fuels their recruitment propaganda. And the first step to understanding an enemy is correctly identifying him in a way that makes clear his ideology.

QZ: You referred to the suffering of Hindu minorities across the world, in a speech you gave during a fundraiser attended by some of the top leaders of the BJP. Do you think that in India there exists a similar situation?

TG: Throughout the world, Hindus are victims of discrimination. Recently, a Hindu priest in Bangladesh was brutally hacked to death by ISIS terrorists and two others were injured trying to help him. Unfortunately, even in the United States, as well as different pockets of India, such discrimination exists.

While there is no doubt there is some discrimination directed toward different “religious minorities” in India, throughout India you will find Muslims, Christians, and people of all kinds of religions free to practice their faith. However, you will not find this degree of tolerance or openness in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or other Muslim countries. In fact, if you are not a member of the government-approved religion in those countries, it is government policy that you will be punished and discriminated against. To my knowledge, this does not exist in India. However, if India were to enact government policies that punish their citizens simply for being of a “minority religion,” I would condemn that action.

The essence of the Hinduism that I practice is karma yoga and bhakti yoga, which means to love God and all [emphasis hers] of His children, regardless of their race, religion, etc., and to use my life working for the well-being of everyone.

QZ: A report in The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper, referred to you as the mascot for the right-wing RSS in India. How do you respond to that? Do you think that is true and would you like to be associated with the RSS?

TG: Both in India and here in the US, I have held meetings with members of both the BJP and the Congress Party. As a member of the US Congress, my interest is in helping produce a closer relationship between the United States and India, not just between the United States and one political party of India.

I have no affiliation with the RSS. Sometimes people on both sides, for their own purposes, try to say I somehow favor, or am part, of the BJP or take photos of me at Indian events and circulate them for their own promotional reasons. But the fact is, I’m not partial to BJP, the Congress Party, or any other particular political party in India.

QZ: Some media reports suggest that you seem to be supporting the Indian diaspora, mostly because they are huge contributors to your campaign, especially with your Hindu identity. How do you respond?

TG: Through my election to Congress and my swearing in on Bhagavad-gita, those in the national media, my colleagues in Congress, and regular Americans across the country have all been very respectful, and even proud of America’s diversity. I assume the reason Hindus all across the country have been so supportive of me, is because when they see me, they see the potential for themselves and their sons and daughters.

There are many Hindus in America who feel they need to convert to Christianity or take “Christian” names if they or their children are to succeed in this country. I have found that simply being the first Hindu elected in Congress has been liberating to so many because it shows that every American, regardless of their background, race, or religion, has the opportunity serve our community in any capacity he or she may choose. – Quartz, 3 March 2016. The introduction to this interview has been abridged. 

» Manu Balachandran is a writer for Quartz in New Delhi. 

Ban Ki-Moon & Tulsi Gabbard: The International Day of Yoga is being celebrated around the World following recognition by the United Nations General Assembly of the holistic benefits of the ancient Indian practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the UN. United Nations, New York, USA (June 21 2015)

See also

Pakistan’s hand in the rise of international jihad – Carlotta Gall

Child terrorists training in Pakistan

Carlotta Gall“Pakistan is intervening in a number of foreign conflicts. Its intelligence service has long acted as the manager of international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists. … Pakistan was cooperating with Qatar … to move international Sunni jihadists … from Pakistan’s tribal areas … to new battlefields in Syria. It is just another reminder of Pakistan’s central involvement in creating and managing violent jihadist groups. … Perhaps most troubling, there are reports that Pakistan had a role in the rise of the Islamic State.” – Carlotta Gall

Ashraf GhaniPresident Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has warned in several recent interviews that unless peace talks with Pakistan and the Taliban produce results in the next few months, his country may not survive 2016. Afghanistan is barely standing, he says, after the Taliban onslaught last year, which led to the highest casualties among civilians and security forces since 2001.

“How much worse will it get?” Mr. Ghani asked in a recent television interview. “It depends on how much regional cooperation we can secure, and how much international mediation and pressure can be exerted to create rules of the game between states.”

What he means is it depends on how much international pressure can be brought to bear on Pakistan to cease its aggression.

Critics of the Afghan leadership say it’s not Pakistan’s fault that its neighbor is falling apart. They point to the many internal failings of the Afghan government: political divisions, weak institutions, warlords and corruption.

But experts have found a lot of evidence that Pakistan facilitated the Taliban offensive. The United States and China have been asking Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to make peace, but Afghanistan argues that Islamabad has done nothing to rein in the Taliban, and if anything has encouraged it to raise the stakes in hopes of gaining influence in any power-sharing agreement.

Pakistan flag waver in SrinigarThis behavior is not just an issue for Afghanistan. Pakistan is intervening in a number of foreign conflicts. Its intelligence service has long acted as the manager of international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists, and there is even speculation that it may have been involved in the rise of the Islamic State.

The latest Taliban offensive began in 2014. United States and NATO forces were winding down their operations in Afghanistan and preparing to withdraw when Pakistan decided, after years of prevarication, to clear Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from their sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan.

The operation was certainly a serious endeavor—Taliban bases, torture chambers and ammunition dumps were busted, town bazaars were razed and over one million civilians were displaced.

But the militants were tipped off early, and hundreds escaped, tribesmen and Taliban fighters said. Many fled over the border to Afghanistan, just at the vulnerable moment when Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for its own security. Ninety foreign fighters with their families arrived in Paktika Province that summer, to the alarm of Afghan officials.

Further along the border in Paktika Province, Taliban fighters occupied abandoned C.I.A. bases and outposts. A legislator from the region warned me that they would use the positions to project attacks deeper into Afghanistan and even up to Kabul. Some of the most devastating suicide bomb attacks occurred in that province in the months that followed.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Haqqani network, the most potent branch of the Taliban, moved from North Waziristan into the adjacent district of Kurram. From there it continues to enjoy safe haven and conduct its insurgency against American, international and Afghan targets.

Pakistan regards Afghanistan as its backyard. Determined not to let its archrival, India, gain influence there, and to ensure that Afghanistan remains in the Sunni Islamist camp, Pakistan has used the Taliban selectively, promoting those who further its agenda and cracking down on those who don’t. The same goes for Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters.

Even knowing this, it might come as a surprise that the region’s triumvirate of violent jihad is living openly in Pakistan.

Sirajuddin HaqqaniFirst, there’s Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, and second in command of the Taliban. He moves freely around Pakistan, and has even visited the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi.

Then there is the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who has openly assembled meetings of his military and leadership council near the Pakistani town of Quetta. Since he came to power last year, the Taliban has mounted some of its most ambitious offensives into Afghanistan, overrunning the northern town of Kunduz, and pushing to seize control of the opium-rich province of Helmand.

Akhtar MansourFinally, Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan—one recent report placed him in the southwestern corner of Baluchistan. He has been working to establish training camps in southern Afghanistan. In October, it took United States Special Operations forces several days of fighting and airstrikes to clear those camps. American commanders say the group they were fighting was Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a new franchise announced by Mr. Zawahri that has claimed responsibility for the killings of bloggers and activists in Karachi and Bangladesh, among other attacks.

Ayman al-ZawahiriPakistan denies harboring the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and points out that it, too, is a victim of terrorism. But many analysts have detailed how the military has nurtured Islamist militant groups as an instrument to suppress nationalist movements, in particular among the Pashtun minority, at home and abroad.

Perhaps most troubling, there are reports that Pakistan had a role in the rise of the Islamic State.

Ahead of Pakistan’s 2014 operation in North Waziristan, scores, even hundreds, of foreign fighters left the tribal areas to fight against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tribesmen and Taliban members from the area say fighters traveled to Quetta, and then flew to Qatar. There they received new passports and passage to Turkey, from where they could cross into Syria. Others traveled overland along well-worn smuggling routes from Pakistan through Iran and Iraq.

The fighters arrived just in time to boost the sweeping offensive by ISIS into Iraq and the creation of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014.

If these accounts are correct, Pakistan was cooperating with Qatar, and perhaps others, to move international Sunni jihadists (including 300 Pakistanis) from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where they were no longer needed, to new battlefields in Syria. It is just another reminder of Pakistan’s central involvement in creating and managing violent jihadist groups, one Pakistani politician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity when talking about intelligence affairs, told me.

This has been going on for more than 30 years. In 1990, I shared a bus ride with young Chinese Uighurs, Muslims from China’s restive northwest, who had spent months training in Pakistani madrasas, including a brief foray into Afghanistan to get a taste of battle. They were returning home, furnished with brand-new Pakistani passports, a gift of citizenship often offered to those who join the jihad.

Years later, just after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan, I interviewed a guerrilla commander from the disputed region of Kashmir who had spent 15 years on the Pakistani military payroll, traveling to train and assist insurgents in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

In 2012 I came across several cases where young clerics, fresh graduates from the Haqqania madrasa in Pakistan, returned to their home villages in Afghanistan, flush with cash, and set about running mosques and recruiting and organizing a band of Taliban followers.

I visited that madrasa in 2013. It is the alma mater of the Afghan Taliban, where many of the leaders of the movement were trained. The clerics there remained adamant in their support for the Taliban. “It is a political fact that one day the Taliban will take power,” Syed Yousuf Shah, the madrasa spokesman, told me. “We are experts on the Taliban,” he said, and a majority of the Afghan people “still support them.”

Nawaz Sharif & Rizwan AkhtarThe madrasa, a longtime instrument of Pakistani intelligence, has been training people from the ethnic minorities of northern Afghanistan alongside its standard clientele of Pashtuns. The aim is still to win control of northern Afghanistan through these young graduates. From there they have their eyes on Central Asia and western China. Pakistani clerics are educating and radicalizing Chinese Uighurs as well, along with Central Asians from the former Soviet republics.

No one has held Pakistan to account for this behavior. Why would Pakistan give it up now? – The New York Times, 6 February 2016

» Carlotta Gall is the author of “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014” and currently the North Africa correspondent for The New York Times.

Map of secret terrorist training camps in Pakistan

Headley asserts Pakistan’s ISI, Army’s hand in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks – Manoj Gupta & Shawan Sen

David Coleman Headley

CNN-IBN“Headley is the first one to depose before Indian court from foreign soil. Sources said Headley had initially refused to confess and after which Doval met US officials four months ago. According to the sources Doval put pressure on US to make Headley turn approver. The sources said that Headley’s confession will help India isolate Pakistan completely.” – Manoj Gupta & Shawan Sen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Mumbai_attacksA day before 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks convict David Coleman Headley will depose in court, his confession has nailed Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence and Army‘s role in the attacks.

On the basis of National Investigation Agency‘s interrogation report accessed by CNN-IBN, Headley said 26/11 attacks were launched with Lashkar-e-Toiba Hafiz Saeed‘s approval. He said attacks were executed with the help of ISI and the money was given for recce.

Headley added that apart from Mumbai, he had recced residence of the Vice President, India Gate and CBI office in the national capital.

Headley further said that ISI’s major Iqbal and Sameer Ali were my handlers. He also said that LeT’s Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi‘s handler was ISI brigadier Rivaz and added that ISI chief Shuja Pasha visited Lakhvi after his arrest, post-26/11 terror attacks.

It was a major success for India in 26/11 case after Headley turned approver through efforts of NSA Ajit Doval.

Headley is the first one to depose before Indian court from foreign soil. Sources said Headley had initially refused to confess and after which Doval met US officials four months ago.

Ajit DovalAccording to the sources Doval put pressure on US to make Headley turn approver. The sources said that Headley’s confession will help India isolate Pakistan completely.

All this comes just a few days after US President Barack Obama sent a strong message out to Pakistan on terrorist groups operating from its soil and lauded India’s efforts to reach out to its neighbour. He had said, “Pakistan should de-legitimise, disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks on its soil. Both Modi and Sharif are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region. India can be an anchor of stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Headley is currently serving 35 years in an American prison after being convicted of being involved in the planning and execution of the Mumbai terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008 in which 166 persons were killed. – IBNLive, 7 February 2016

Barack Obama & Nawaz Sharif

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