Forty years after Pakistani forces and their Islamist collaborators slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people, there is finally some semblance of justice in Bangladesh. Of the ten people indicted for acts of genocide by the Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal, eight of them are from the Islamist movement, Jamaat-e-Islami.
In the West, where many of the war criminals from the 1971 atrocities fled, the Jamaat movement has become a powerful leader within Muslim communities.
Bangladesh's official figures claim Pakistani soldiers and their Jamaat collaborators killed an estimated three million people, raped 200,000 women and forced tens of millions to flee their homes. At the time of the genocide, one US official was quoted saying, "It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland."
Earlier this month, the war crimes tribunal handed a life sentence to Abdul Quader Mollah, a leading Jamaat-e-Islami figure, for his role in the 1971 atrocities. He emerged from the Supreme Court on February 4, offering a victory sign to his supporters. Known as the "Butcher of Mirpur," Mollah was convicted of beheading a poet, raping an 11 year old girl, and shooting 344 people.
Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis have deemed a prison sentence too benign; huge protests have been taking place for several weeks outside the courthouse in Bangladesh's capital city, Dhaka. Even today, Bangladesh's other extreme Islamist groups believe Jamaat to be too violent. A journalist for the British Independent, Philip Hensher, wrote that, "The protests … are led by intelligent and liberal people; they are, however, calling with great urgency for the death penalty to be passed on Mollah and other convicted war criminals."
In Britain, however, Jamaat is not troubled by its past.
The East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe are both leading Jamaat organizers in Britain. Both institutions heavily promote the writings of Syed Mawdudi, the founder of Jamaat Islamism, whose book, Let Us Be Muslims, tells followers that, "The sacred duty of Muslims … wherever you are, in whichever country you live, you 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."
One Bangladeshi Jamaat MP, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, also a war criminal, has regularly appeared at the East London Mosque and has even raised funds there for the Jamaat movement. In November 2010, the War Crimes Tribunal for the Bangladeshi genocide ordered the arrest of Sayedee for his involvement in war crimes in Pirojpur, his home district, where 30,000 people were murdered and their bodies dumped in 12 mass graves. At least 300 women were allegedly tortured and 146 houses were set on fire. The investigators visited Pirojpur and found evidence of murder, rape and genocide "committed by Sayedee."
On February 28th Sayedee was found guilty by the Tribunal and was sentenced to death.
Other speakers at the East London Mosque have included Bilal Philips, named by the US government an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Hussein Yee, who has claimed the September 11 attacks were a Jewish conspiracy; and the late Al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, whose last video talk at the mosque in 2009 was advertised with a poster of New York under heavy bombardment.
The Islamic Forum of Europe [IFE] is another Jamaat group that also promotes extremists. Azad Ali, a leading IFE official, was previously filmed by undercover reporters stating, "Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, no one is going to agree with that." He has called for the destruction of Israel, justified the killing of British troops in Iraq and praised Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, as well as Osama bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam.
Ali was previously a civil servant at the British Treasury. In 2010, the current leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband MP, and Harriet Harman MP attended a conference where Ali spoke. The conference, called Progressive London, was organized by the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Ali was also the chair of the Muslim Safety Forum, another Jamaat front group that worked closely with the British Government, including the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office.
Junaid Ahmed, another IFE official, is the deputy chair and a trustee of London Citizens, a group of "community organizers" which is a key supporter of the East London Mosque. Junaid has described Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, as a "hero," and has praised the "steadfastness" of Hamas's murderous activities. In spite of this, London Citizens has received support from the Mayor's Fund for London and has even enjoyed partnership with a number of Jewish synagogues for interfaith initiatives.
In 2010, the UK Islamic Mission, yet another fundamentalist group that promotes Jamaat-e-Islami, organized a series of fundraising events across the UK, which prominently featured Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a former president of Jamaat-e-Islami. Ahmed, a strong supporter of Bin Laden, claims that the Jews were responsible for the September 11 attacks. He also has said, "Now is the time that we should be prepared for Jihad. This Jihad will be against oppression … And the jihad in the way of Allah is not terrorism. I salute the girl who killed five American soldiers in a suicide attack in Iraq." The Labour Party's Anas Sarwar MP was happy to speak on the same platform.
But Jamaat representation in the UK goes beyond promoting Jamaat ideology; it also includes wanted war criminals from the 1971 slaughter. In April 2012 the Sunday Telegraph reported that Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, who was formerly the director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the National Health Service, a trustee of leading British charity Muslim Aid and a founding figure of the Muslim Council of Britain, was to be charged in connection with a series of killings of intellectuals during the 1971 atrocities. Mueen-Uddin was formerly also the vice-chairman of East London Mosque.
A Channel 4 "Dispatches" program has alleged that another leading British Islamist, Abu Sayeed, is another war criminal who fled Bangladesh to live in Britain. Sayeed was previously a "head teacher of a Muslim school and a co-opted member of Tower Hamlets Education Council." The documentary revealed that he was a senior member of the Al-Badr death squad, a Jamaat paramilitary group responsible for the mass murder and rape of Bangladeshi citizens.
While the Jamaat movement is being held to account in Bangladesh, it has established itself as a leading force among British Muslims. For years, leading Members of Parliament have spoken at events organised by Jamaat groups such as the East London Mosque. In the past seven years, the East London Mosque has received around £3 million of public funds. Further, in 2011 it was revealed that the Islamic Forum of Europe was channelling £149,627 to three organisations controlled or heavily influenced by Jamaat – the East London Mosque (£17,561), the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques (£26,179) and the Osmani Trust (£105,887).
Such support only works to legitimize Jamaat as leaders within the British Muslim community.
British media and politicians have only just started paying proper attention to the current tumult in Bangladesh and the crimes committed by Jamaat-e-Islami. While Bangladeshis demand justice for Jamaat's crimes, the British taxpayers have been supporting Jamaat's work.