A verdict against New York resident Ashrafuzzaman Khan for alleged crimes against humanity during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence could come any day. Testimony before a war crimes tribunal wrapped up in late September.
Khan, a naturalized American and a leader of the Islamic Circle of North America's (ICNA) New York chapter, is accused of being the "chief executor" of a killing squad loyal to the Pakistani army. As Bangladesh moved toward independence, the squad allegedly rounded up intellectuals – scholars, doctors and journalists – and then tortured and killed them to deprive the new nation of leadership.
Niether he nor ICNA has commented publicly since the charges were issued.
Last week, the ICNA New York chapter quietly removed the names of executive board members, including Khan, from its web page. Previous IPT stories on Khan linked to that page when it included Khan's name. A writer identified only as Shehab described asking ICNA back in July whether the chapter's board member was the same man facing the war crimes tribunal.
If it is the same man, Shehab said he wrote in his email to ICNA ,"does ICNA have any plan to initiate its own investigation about the role of Ashrafuz Zaman Khan in Bangladesh during 1971 and the channel which associated him with ICNA hiding his past?"
He received no response until last week. After the web page was scrubbed, Shehab says he received an email from ICNA Secretary Hafiz Zafeer Ali. "He advised me to 'focus on my study and do not involve [in] back home politics'," Shehab wrote.
Khan previously served as ICNA's secretary general. He and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a prominent imam in the United Kingdom who helped create the Muslim Council of Britain, were tried in absentia. One eyewitness, a hostage who escaped before he could be killed, testified that he saw Khan giving orders to the death squad members. Other witnesses said they later recognized Khan as the man who took their relatives away at gunpoint after his picture appeared in Bangladeshi newspapers.
ICNA was founded by South Asian Muslims and its constitution draws heavily from the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Jamaat was loyal to Pakistan during the 1971 war. The killing squad, known as Al Badar, was a Jamaat offshoot.
ICNA's curriculum also emphasizes writings by Jamaat founder Syed Abul Ala Maududi. He advocated that Muslims "must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God."
As of Friday, Khan remained listed on the contact page for the North American Imams Federation Northeast regional office.