Does “Stand with Kashmir” really stand with Kashmir?

By Karys Rhea

Stand with Kashmir, or the SWK, is a newly launched non-profit group that allegedly advocates for the self-determination of the Kashmiri people. It makes a compelling and emotional plea for Kashmiri autonomy and details what it says are India’s human rights violations and military occupation of the region. But its framing of the conflict is one-dimensional, devoid of nuance and, above all, highly suspicious.

It asserts that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is an evil fascist who hates Muslims and has deployed his Hindu supremacist military forces to violently oppress Muslim-Kashmiris. It also says India has engaged in brutal human rights violations against Muslim-Kashmiris while Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is “a humanitarian.”

The problem with SWK’s version of events is not that it is criticizes India. Reasonable minds can disagree on India’s handling of sensitive national security matters. Rather, it is SWK’s affiliations with bad actors in the region, most notably Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), undoubtedly one of Pakistan’s most dangerous Jihadist movements.

JI is a notorious South Asian extremist group responsible for the genocide of tens of thousands – some says millions – of Bangladeshis during its 1971 war of independence. Hizbul Mujahideen, JI’s military wing, is a designated terrorist group that has been a prominent force of violence in Kashmir for decades, wreaking havoc on the non-Muslim population. JI’s ideology is more or less indistinguishable from Middle Eastern movements such as al-Qaeda or ISIS. Its followers believe in a theocratic Islamic caliphate that subjugates women, gays, Jews and other apostates under the rule of Shariah law. Yet SWK notably omits any mention of them from the narrative it communicates to the public.

In addition to carrying out terror attacks throughout South Asia, JI operates through its western proxies. It has founded and funded prominent Muslim community organizations such as the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) to masquerade as mainstream and moderate organizations. In reality, they espouse extremist views and provide material support for JI and other terrorist networks.

SWK is a proud affiliate of ICNA, which has openly admitted to its Jamaat origins. ICNA, along with its sister organization, the Muslim American Society (MAS), a designated terror organization in the United Arab Emirates, hosts bi-annual conferences that feature JI operatives as guests or speakers. Several JI members are themselves part of ICNA, including the head of ICNA Relief Mohsin Ansari, who proudly identifies as a JI member. 

ICNA also funds and partners with the Al Khidmat Foundation, a branch of JI in Pakistan, through its charities, which raises tens of millions every year. The Al Khidmat Foundation is explicit about its financing of the terrorist group Hamas.

In addition, ICNA has openly partnered with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the designated terror group that committed the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

If SWK were an objective source of information on the Kashmiri conflict, which it claims to be, it would not stay silent about Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism and its brutal oppression of minority populations, including the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus who have been forcibly expelled from the region. India’s moves in the region can and should be examined, but SWK would have you believe that India is solely responsible for violence and that all Muslims are victims who have no choice but to take up arms. 

SWK presents itself as a network of activists concerned about human rights. But human rights are not, in fact, human rights if they only apply to one group of people. While it’s understandable to feel more connected to one’s tribe or religion, it is a classic propaganda tactic to be specific about how terrible one’s opponents are but vague about what is being perpetrated by one’s own camp.

By partnering with groups like ICNA and MAS, Stand with Kashmir is promoting the very extremism that it claims to be fighting against. 

It should not be trusted. 

Karys Rhea is the New York associate of the Counter Islamist Grid.

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