Published by Liberty South Asia on November 14, 2019

Remarks Delivered by Seth Oldmixon on November 13, 2019 Washington, DC

9/11 made al Qaeda a household name; and with it, an introduction for most Americans to radical Islamism – a totalitarian, theocratic ideology that demands global subservience to a cabal of religious clerics. With the rise of ISIS, most people began to understand that al Qaeda is not the only violent extremist group in operation. Nor was it the first.

Another Islamist extremist group, Jamaat-e-Islami, was founded in 1941 by the fundamentalist cleric Abul Ala Maududi, and has active chapters in countries across South Asia and, in fact, the world. But Jamaat is not a household name like al Qaeda, or ISIS, or even Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, with which Jamaat shares a close connection. So who is Jamaat-e-Islami. What do they believe? And what do they want?

In his 1939 speech, Jihad in Islam, Maulana Maududi laid clear the objective of his ideology, which he said “seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals..”  Maududi went on to explain that his goal was to “destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam,” saying that “Islam requires the earth—not just a portion, but the whole planet…”  How did he plan on achieving this lofty goal? In his words, “the objective of the Islamic ‘jihād’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.”

Of course, we know that these beliefs do not reflect those of the vast majority of the world’s Muslims. In fact, it is peace-loving Muslims throughout the world who have suffered the most from this kind of violent ideology. But this is what the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami believed, and the goals he outlined almost 80 years ago. Jamaat-e-Islami’s guiding ideology and its goal of establishing a global theocracy have not changed from Maulana Maududi’s original vision. In fact, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq (who happens to sit in Pakistan’s Senate), wrote that:

In 2015, he wrote that

            In 2005, another Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Mir Quasem Ali, addressed an assembly of Islami Chhatra Shibir, Jamaat’s violent “student wing” in Bangladesh. During his speech he predicted the re-establishment of an Islamist Caliphate (Khilafat Ala Minhaj e Nabuwat) and called on Chhatra Shibir members to be frontline soldiers in bringing about the end of “heathen Western civilization.”

Jamaat-e-Islami’s goal of forcibly transforming the world to meet their vision of a so-called “Islamic State” was echoed again in 2016 by Sirajul Haq. While saying funeral prayers for the terrorist convicted of assassinating Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, the Jamaati leader prayed for Allah to grant Jamaat-e-Islami the power to enforce Shariah across the globe, a goal for which he declared that he and his followers are “ready to sacrifice our lives.”

Jamaat-e-Islami’s penchant for violence was perhaps best exhibited during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. Jamaat-e-Islami was enlisted by the Pakistan Army to serve as militant proxies. During this period, an estimated 3 million people were murdered, including the country’s leading intellectuals. Women, too, were targeted not only with death, but sexual violence. Leesa Ghazi’s new award-winning film, “Rising Silence,” documents the plight of hundreds of thousands of women abducted and held in “rape camps” by these Pakistani forces and their collaborators. But one doesn’t have to look back to the 1970’s to find examples of Jamaat violence.

The State Department’s 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom for Bangladesh noted that:

According to the main domestic human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), which publishes annual statistics on violence against religious minorities, 495 statues, monasteries, or temples were destroyed; 278 homes and 208 businesses were destroyed; 188 persons were injured; and one person was killed during the year. Local and international press, human rights organizations, and Hindu community leaders blamed the attacks on Shibir.

Hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami attacks against Bangladesh’s religious minorities have shaken the country to the core in recent years, in what observers have called “a coordinated campaign by Islamist extremists to destroy the country’s democracy and cleanse it of religious minorities.”

 Jamaat-e-Islami has been linked to al Qaeda and has played a key role in both the Afghan jihad and Kashmir jihad. In a 2012 television interview, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hasan said, “I salute the Afghan Talibans. They have defeated America and they have destroyed NATO. It is written all over the mountains “Go America Go“, “Get out of here“. They have humiliated America.” Later, in the same program, he said that he believes Osama bin Laden is “a great Shaheed.”[1]

 In 2013, Hasan posted on social media:

Hasan later posted a photo of American flag draped coffins of soldiers with the words, “Afghanistan has become a graveyard for America.”

Sirajul Haq echoes this celebration of the deaths of American soldiers. In 2013, he posted on social media that:

At a Jamaat-e-Islami rally in 2016, supporters chanted “Bharat ka aik ailaaj, al-jihad” (“The cure to India is nothing but jihad”). The rally was attended by top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami alongside the leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen.  Just last month, Sirajul Haq  addressed a rally of supporters during which he proclaimed that Jihad is the only solution to the dispute over Kashmir.  In fact, in 2012, Jamaat-e-Islami’s official social media account declared that

And yet, despite decades of evidence that Jamaat-e-Islami is a violent extremist organization that poses a threat to American allies and American interests in the world, they continue to operate, relatively unknown and certainly underappreciated outside South Asia. We allow this to continue at our peril. The South Asia Democratic Forum in Brussels explained in a 2015 policy brief that:

“The short-term as well as long-term threat potential of [Jamaat-e-Islami] cannot be overemphasised. It is foolish to view this economic and political colossus as a push over just because they lack a strong electoral base. It is not alarmist to claim that the JeI, if kept unchecked, has the potential to slowly but surely put an end to secularism and democracy in Bangladesh.”


            30 years ago, the world saw the fall of another totalitarian ideology as the Berlin Wall came crumbling down amid cheers from people living on both sides – those in the free world who had been fighting to amplify the voices and secure the basic human rights of those suffering under the oppression of communism; and those on the inside who courageously struggled, at great cost, to free their own society of that totalitarian menace.

Today we face a similar fight, against transnational organizations with a shared agenda of putting an end to democracy and replacing it with a totalitarian theocratic state. They pursue this goal by exploiting legal and democratic processes with the intention of undermining and ultimately removing them; and they encourage, condone, justify and support the commission of violent acts to achieve their political, ideological, and social goals – the very definition of violent extremism.

[1] To the Point with Shahzeb Khanzada. 1 November 2012