TARGET ISLAM: Blasphemy Law and American Funding to Pakistani Mullahs, $36,607 to Sunni Ittehad Council

 A cleric who handed over a young Christian girl to police on blasphemy charges after she burned papers containing Quranic verses said Friday what she did was a “conspiracy” to insult Muslims. Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in the Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad, insisted he had saved the girl, Rimsha, from mob violence by handing her to police but said the incident arose because Muslims had not stopped local Christians’ “anti-Islam activities” earlier. Rimsha was arrested and remanded in custody for a fortnight last Thursday after being accused of burning pages from a children’s religious instruction book, which were inscribed with verses from the Muslim holy text. The youngster reportedly has Down’s Syndrome and her treatment has prompted outrage from rights groups and concern from Western governments, but Chishti insisted she was fully aware of what she was doing. “The girl who burnt the Holy Quran has no mental illness and is a normal girl,” Chishti told AFP. “She did it knowingly, this is a conspiracy and not a mistake. She confessed what she did.” Chishti claimed the local Christian community had previously caused antagonism by playing music in services at their makeshift church during Muslim prayer time and said burning the pages was deliberate. “They committed this crime to insult us further. This happened because we did not stop their anti-Islam activities before,” he said. “Last Christmas, they played musical instruments and there was vulgarity in the streets during our prayers time. I warned them but they did not stop.” During his sermon at Friday prayers Chishti told worshippers it was “time for Muslims to wake up” and protect the Holy Quran. Mehrabad is home to around 500 Christian families but many fled after the page-burning, fearing a repeat of a 2009 incident in Gojra, in which young Muslim radicals burned Christian houses, killing seven, after a rumour that a page from the Holy Quran had been desecrated during a wedding. REFERENCE: Imam accuses Christian girl of ‘conspiracy’ By AFP Published: August 24, 2012 http://tribune.com.pk/story/425690/imam-claims-he-saved-blasphemy-accused-christian-girl-from-violence/

Sunni Tehreek demolishes Masjid & Commit Blasphemy

2012 US government website Usaspending.gov shows the Sunni Ittehad Council receiving $36,607 from Washington in 2009. US aided Pakistan group which supported Extremists  ISLAMABAD: The US gave money to a Pakistani Muslim group that organised anti-Taliban rallies, but which later demonstrated in support of an extremist who killed a leading liberal politician, the US Embassy in Pakistan said Wednesday. US government website Usaspending.gov shows that the group, the Sunni Ittehad Council, received $36,607 from Washington in 2009. A US diplomat said that the embassy had given money to the group to organise the rallies, but that it had since changed direction and leadership. He said it was a one-off grant, and wouldn’t be repeated. He didn’t give his name because he wasn’t authorised to speak about the issue on the record. The grant was first reported by the Council of Foreign Relations on its website. The Ittehad council was formed in 2009 to counter extremism. It groups politicians and clerics from Pakistan’s traditionalist Barelvi Muslim movement, often referred to as theological moderates in the Pakistani context. The American money was used to organise nationwide rallies against militants and suicide bombings, the embassy official said. The demonstrations received widespread media coverage, and were some of the first against extremism in the country. The rhetoric at the rallies was mostly focused on opposing militant attacks on shrines, which Barelvis frequent but are opposed by Deobandi Muslims, Pakistan’s other main Muslim sect. In 2011 and also this month, however, the council led demonstrations in support of the killer of Salman Taseer, a governor who was killed a year ago for his criticism of anti-blasphemy laws. The displays have appalled Pakistani liberals and stoked international fears that the country is buckling under the weight of extremism. Taseer’s assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, is a Barelvi. He claimed he acted to defend the honour of Prophet Mohammed. At its rallies, the group maintains its criticism of the Taliban even as it supports Qadri — a seemingly contradictory stance that suggests its leaders may be more interested in harnessing the political support and street power of Barelvis than in genuinely countering militancy. Two leading members of the council who have been with the group from the beginning of its existence denied receiving any American funds. The apparent discrepancy could be explained by lack of transparency within the organisation. However, given the current anti-American climate, owning up to receiving funds from the United States would invite criticism. “This propaganda is being unleashed against us because we are strongly opposed to Western democracy and American policies in the region and in the world,” said Sahibzada Fazal Karim, the head of the council, before reiterating the group’s support for Qadri. “We are against extremism, but we support Qadri because he did a right thing,” he said. REFERENCE: US aided Pakistan group which supported extremists AP | 11th January, 2012 http://dawn.com/2012/01/11/us-aided-pakistan-group-which-supported-extremists/

The US has created a new unit in Pakistan that aims to leverage such grassroots efforts by working with local moderates to counter violent extremism the first of its kind set up by an American embassy anywhere in the world, according to US officials here. The existence of the unit has never before been reported.

Rehman and other clerics attempting to challenge extremism in Pakistan recently met with US Ambassador Cameron Munter in Islamabad, though the 50-year-old Rehman says he has not yet received support from the Americans.

Okara has special significance because it is near the village of Ajmal Kasab, home of the only surviving gunman from the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed over 160 people.

The US chose Pakistan as the site for its new venture because it is home to a vast network of Islamist militants who have been fighting US-led troops in neighboring Afghanistan for over a decade and have even organized attacks on American soil.

The three-person unit in the US Embassy public affairs section was established in July. It plans to work with local partners, including moderate religious leaders, to project their counter-extremist messages and push back against the militants’ extensive propaganda machine, said US officials.

ST (Sunni Tehrik – Sunni Movement) ———————————- 9. (S) ST is a small religious/political group with a presence in small pockets of Karachi. The group has only managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections but militarily it is disproportionably powerful because of the influx of MQM-H gunmen after the government crack-down on MQM-H (see above). ST has organized the party and its gunmen along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders. ST and MQM have allegedly been killing each other’s leadership since the April 2006 Nishtar Park bombing that killed most of ST’s leadership. ST blames MQM for the attack. There appears to have been a reduction in these targeted killings since 2008. REFERENCE: 2009: US assessment of Karachi violence
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