A senior Indian Muslim leader accused India's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) of being "part of a larger movement known as Hindutva" whose founders he claims were "inspired by the ideas of fatherland and racial supremacy espoused by the Nazis and fascists in Europe at the time."
The allegations were made at the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of the largest and most influential Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the United States.
Asaduddin Owaisi is a four-time member of Indian Parliament and president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a regional Indian political party that seeks to protect the rights of Muslims and other minorities. Owaisi spoke at a session hosted by the Indian Muslim Relief & Charities (IMRC), "The stories of Muslims Lynched and Oppressed under the Hindutva Regime" at ISNA's 57th Annual Convention held virtually on 5-6 September.
Owaisi alleged that "since its founding, the BJP has run on a majoritarian Hindu nationalist plank that seeks to turn India from a secular constitutional republic to a Hindu rashtra or a Hindu state. Hindutva is rabidly anti-Muslim and the BJP has repeatedly mobilized public opinion against Muslim citizens."
Owaisi was echoing allegations that Pakistan's Islamist Prime Minister Imran Khan has often made, including at ISNA's 2019 convention. Khan claimed that the BJP's ideological arm, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was inspired by fascist dictators Hitler and Mussolini and believed in the "racial supremacy of the Hindu civilization" and the "ethnic cleansing of Muslims from India." This when the population of Muslims in India is nearing 200 million, while Hindus and Christians have almost disappeared from Pakistan, without even a hint of protest from Islamists and their backers.
Owaisi and Khan are in no position to cast stones, since both have spoken in support of jihad and have often made anti-Semitic statements. Soon after President Donald Trump proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017, Owaisi "saluted the brave mothers of Palestinians who have sacrificed not one but lakhs [thousands] of their children for the defence of Bait ul Muqaddas [Jerusalem]."
In another speech posted a month earlier, Owaisi declared that Muslims will "fly their flag on Masjid al-Aqsa ("Temple Mount"). He said that "Israel was not only vile towards Gaza, it was vile towards all Muslim countries." Owaisi applauded the "brave mujahideen who are fighting today in Gaza and sacrificing everything." He invoked the well-known hadith ("Islamic tradition") that says the Day of Judgement "will not come unless the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them."
Founded in 1981 by US-based members of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISNA was included on a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the Hamas-financing prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF).
ISNA is listed among "individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood." The 2008 trial ended with guilty verdicts on 108 counts. ISNA's conventions attended by tens of thousands of people have featured rhetoric in support of terrorist groups and other radicalism.
The IMRC website states its "mission is to help India's Muslims & minorities achieve security, freedom and equality—Their rights as citizens of India." The California-based charity hosts its Annual Benefit Luncheon every year at the ISNA convention. IMRC's founder and executive director Manzoor Ghori serves on ISNA's board.
At the IMRC session on 6 September, Owaisi alleged that Indian Muslims faced "systemic and structural discrimination" and "are the poorest religious group and their poverty has only increased with each generation." He criticized the government's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), claiming that it "explicitly excludes Muslims from becoming citizens."
The legislation's advocates deny the legislation has anything to do with Indian Muslims. They say it eases the path to citizenship for persecuted religious minorities forced out of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan—the three Muslim majority countries in India's neighbourhood. "The ruling party incited a full-blown massacre against Muslims in the capital city of New Delhi," Owaisi claimed about the Delhi riots earlier this year that followed country-wide protests against the CAA. "The message was to teach Muslims a lesson," Owaisi said.
But Owaisi's assertion paints a false picture of one-sided government-sponsored "pogrom" against Muslims. While a majority of those killed in the riots were Muslim, many Hindus also perished in the communal clashes, including civilians, a police officer and an Intelligence Bureau staffer. Investigations have also revealed the involvement of the radical Islamist Popular Front of India (PFI) in the Delhi riots. PFI has also been suspected of instigating the Bengaluru riots last month.
While Owaisi censored the government for "the largest troop presence in erstwhile J&K [Jammu & Kashmir]" and the "severe restrictions" faced by the Kashmiri people over the past year, he remained silent about some of the deadliest attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based jihadi groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killing last month of two police personnel in J&K's Anantnag district by terrorists suspected to be from the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
ISNA's magazine, Islamic Horizons, is a hotbed of pro-jihadist literature and has long championed the terrorist group Hamas.
The magazine's May/June 2020 issue featured the cover story, "An Indian Genocide in the Making: Can India still be considered a secular democracy?" It claimed that a day prior to President Trump's 24 February visit to India, BJP members "belonging to the Hindu paramilitary Rashtryia Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; founded in 1925) attacked Muslim businesses and houses in northeastern New Delhi."
"By Feb. 26 they had killed some 38 people, mostly Muslims, burnt houses and a mosque. This number would increase, as the seriously injured aren't receiving adequate treatment in hospitals often staffed by pro-RSS doctors. This is the worst attack on Muslims seen in New Delhi since independence (1947) and the second deadliest since 2002, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known to many as the 'Butcher-in-Chief,' was chief minister of Gujarat state," the story added.
These reports are unconfirmed. Investigations into the Delhi riots are still ongoing and investigators have yet to present their final findings.
Another cover story from the November/December 2019 issue, "India Earns a Genocide Citation: Kashmiris live the spirit of resistance," was authored by convicted Pakistani spy and lobbyist Ghulam Nabi Fai.
"Since 1989, India has killed 100,000 Kashmiris. Tens of thousands have been maimed, tortured, illegally imprisoned or condemned to starvation by being robbed of their occupation. India routinely uses rape as a weapon of subjugation," Fai wrote. "Since the start of the current uprising, over 20,000 Kashmiris, mostly young men and women, have been imprisoned. Of these about 1,000 have been kept in torture cells. Those regarded as unworthy of the labor and expenses of extreme torture are subjected to other kinds of treatment. An apparent favorite involves stripping and photographing them and then blackmailing their families and extorting information."
The report fails to mention the forced expulsion by terrorists of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits 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.
The Indian government rejected a 2018 United Nation Human Rights Commissioner (UNHCR) report on human rights abuses in J&K, describing it as "fallacious, tendentious and motivated."
"The report overlooks the central reality in Jammu and Kashmir—that Indian forces are battling a terrorist movement aided and abetted by Pakistan," a Hindustan Times report quoted strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney saying. "Worse still, the report is based not on any on-the-spot investigation but on the basis of media and other accounts that have been picked up selectively to reach a predetermined conclusion. It reads more like the report of an activist NGO with an agenda than that of a UN organisation. India must do more than merely condemn the report. It should seek to shame and penalise those behind this misleading, one-sided report."
In November 2017, Owaisi met with an ISNA delegation visiting the Indian city of Hyderabad. The delegation comprised of ISNA President Azhar Azeez, IMRC Executive Director Manzoor Ghori, and CEO of Sahayata Trust Syed Aneesuddin.
During the visit, Azeez, who has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, met with Moulana Jalaaluddin Umri, then-leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, in Delhi. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is a South Asian Sunni revivalist movement that has an active network in North America and the West. The Islamist movement often defends terrorists and rationalizes attacks against Western targets, in addition to working to advance a rigid interpretation of Islam in the US and other secularly-governed nations. The movement's chapters in Kashmir, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have ties to terrorists. Owaisi's recent speech at the ISNA convention is yet another example of the organization providing a platform to Islamists and other radicals, reinforcing the perception that ISNA's attempts to portray itself as a benign advocacy organization are delusional.
Abha Shankar is Director of Research at the Washington, D.C.-based Investigative Project on Terrorism