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August 28, 2019 5:42 am

American Islamists’ Double Standards on Kashmir

avatar by Abha Shankar

Opinion

Indian soldiers examine the debris after an explosion in Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district February 14, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Younis Khaliq.

American Islamists pushed alarmist rhetoric and double standards following the Indian ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)’s recent action ending autonomy for the Indian portion of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Himalayan Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a source of tension between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947. The state is not just divided between India and Pakistan, but China still controls a fifth of the territory. Both India and Pakistan claim the state in its entirety, and have fought multiple wars over it.

The tension reignited on August 5 after India repealed a “temporary” constitutional provision giving Jammu and Kashmir autonomy over laws outside of defense, foreign affairs, finance, and communications. The latter remain controlled by the central government in New Delhi. Now the Indian portion of Jammu and Kashmir is divided into two federally-administered territories governed by India.

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)’s Council for Social Justice (ICNA CSJ) wasted no time in publishing a statement by Kashmiri American activist groups denouncing the repeal, calling it “an act of further aggression and assault on the Rights of the people of the State.”

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Resorting to fear mongering to draw global attention to the issue, the statement called for “immediate diplomacy that recognizes the explosive situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir and takes immediate measures to avert it before it explodes.”

ICNA is “openly affiliated” with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). The JI is a South Asian Sunni revivalist movement that has provided an ideological platform and recruiting base for the US-designated terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), which has perpetrated several terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.

ICNA, based in Queens, New York, strongly advocates for Kashmiri self-determination, and its conventions feature high-profile US-based Kashmiri separatist leaders and activists. The conventions excoriate India for “state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir.”

Convicted Pakistani spy and lobbyist Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai routinely speaks on the “Kashmir crisis” at ICNA conventions and webinars. At these conventions, Fai and other Kashmiri activists have praised the “youth-led indigenous movement” in Kashmir, called for “a fair, impartial referendum” in the state, and condemned the “massive campaign of ruthless clampdown” they claim has been launched by the Indian Army since the start of the insurgency in 1990. But they stayed silent on Pakistan’s use of terrorism as a strategic weapon to wage a low-cost proxy war with India.

Islamic Pakistan and secular India have fought several wars over Kashmir since British rule in the region ended in 1947. During the resulting partition of the subcontinent, hundreds of nominally independent kingdoms, which had been ruled by native princes who were closely allied with British India, had to choose to be part of either India or Pakistan. The Hindu ruler of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir opted for independence, but following an invasion by Pakistan-based forces, decided to accede to India.

In the turbulent aftermath, “temporary” measures were enacted to placate the state’s Muslim population by allowing the state government considerable autonomy.

But the provision ended up fanning separatist and terrorist forces from across the border and encouraging corruption and family rule in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in justifying the repeal. Scrapping the temporary measures now gives Jammu and Kashmir residents the same rights as other Indians, and can boost economic development and job opportunities in the region, he added.

Pakistan reacted angrily to the Indian repeal. In addition to downgrading diplomatic relations and suspending trade and cultural exchanges, Prime Minister Imran Khan accused India of pursuing “a fascist, racist Hindu Supremacist ideology & leadership” that seeks to change the region’s demographics.

India’s action is “GOOD for Kashmiris,” wrote Georgetown University South Asia expert Christine Fair. “It will permit the much-needed investment in the state” by allowing outside businesses to invest in the region. The earlier provision was “unfair to Kashmiri women and their children” since women residents were not able to pass on their property to their children if they married men from outside the state.

American Islamists see it differently. “This is nothing short of a crisis for the entire humanity,” said an August 8 news release from the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a Washington, DC-based Islamist umbrella group. “The Indian atrocities continue unabated. Every week dozens of Kashmiris are losing their lives.”

That claim is so-far unsubstantiated. A news blackout in the region has helped fuel rumors of violence, but there are no credible reports of mass casualties.

The USCMO release called on the American Muslim community “to support the Kashmiri issue in every aspect possible,” including lobbying White House and Congressional representatives and writing to media outlets.

Some Islamist member organizations issued their own news releases and organized protests across the country, including in front of the Indian embassy and consulates, opposing the repeal.

AMP, a virulently anti-Israel advocacy group, compared the Indian action to Israel’s “Zionist settler-colonialist model” and lamented the fact that “India has become both a strategic ally and top arms customer of Israel, spending over $700 million annually on weapons from the Apartheid state.”

CAIR called on “all Americans who support human rights and democracy to demand that the State Department put pressure on the Indian government to lift the siege on millions of people in the Kashmir valley.” Its New Jersey chapter even went so far as to ask Governor Phil Murphy to cancel an upcoming economic mission trip to India. “By embarking on this mission, with the full knowledge of the steps recently taken by the Indian government, Governor Murphy would in effect be legitimizing and endorsing these illegal and inhumane actions,” said CAIR-NJ Executive Director Jim Sues.

CAIR emerged in 1994 from a Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas-support network called the Palestine Committee. CAIR operates under the guise of being a benign civil rights group, but has a long history of serving as a front for Hamas, undermining counter-terrorism actions, and fabricating conspiratorial narratives against the government to rationalize the group’s support of terrorism.

The Islamists’ strident advocacy for the rights of the Kashmiri population allegedly “besieged” by the Indian Army stands in marked contrast to their silence on the forced expulsion by terrorists of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) from the Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s. Today, the Kashmiri Pandits live in refugee camps in Jammu, a Hindu-majority region south of the Kashmir Valley that is part of Jammu and Kashmir. Islamists also failed to protest the systematic, state-supported repression and displacement of local populations in Pakistan-administered Gilgit-Baltistan that is claimed by India.

Additionally, the Islamists conveniently overlook the Pakistani state’s tyrannical subjugation of its Baloch, Mohajir, and Pashtun populations.

Pakistani military forces have long used a “kill-and-dump” policy as an instrument of terror in its largest and richest Balochistan province. Thousands of people have been reported missing since the launch of a military operation in 2005 against an uprising by ethnic Baloch groups. The ambitious multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, ostensibly to boost economic development in the region, has in fact stripped Balochistan of its natural wealth, and impoverished and displaced the local population.

The Mohajirs, Muslim immigrants from India, also have a long history of being persecuted by Pakistan and have been labeled “traitors.” Pashtuns from the northwest Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have also suffered brutal repression at the hands of the Pakistani military for years.

American Islamists have remained silent about some of the deadliest attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based jihadi groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the February terror attack in Pulwama by the Pakistan-based designated terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 40 Indian soldiers.

American Islamists’ willingness to overlook Pakistan’s brutal repression of its minority populations and its state-sponsorship of terror continues to follow a similar pattern. They fail to condemn Islamist terror groups like Hamas and try to deny any connection between radical Islam and terrorist attacks, even when the terrorists say otherwise.

Abha Shankar is Senior Intelligence Analyst at the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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