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Petro Dollars, Wahhabism and India’s waning liberal ethos

2 April 2010 1,213 views 26 Comments

…Or Part II of Should foreign funding for religious institutions be banned?

In my earlier post on the subject of foreign funding for religious institutions in India, I posited that these funds and proselytization is affecting communities and slowly turning the liberal, tolerant and welcoming ethos of India into a rigid, intolerant culture.

In this post, I will examine the influx of Saudi petro-dollars in India and its influence on propagation of a particularly rigid Wahhabi ideology amongst Indian Muslims.

Although it is widely known and accepted that large amounts of petro-dollars find their way into Islamic organisations in India, almost no records exist of these transfers. That may perhaps be because most of these transfers take place via irregular channels & hawala transactions and/or in unaccounted money.

My guess is that a significant part (if not the majority) of these funds go towards disseminating a violent ideology and sponsoring Jihadi activities.  Astute observers for example, have noted how Lashkar-e-Taiba was nurtured by Saudi money. And this is being repeated elsewhere in the world.

The Saudi assistance to Madrassas and local Imams has also been noticed (and commented upon) by others:

Important fronts in this (Saudi) campaign are in south and southeast Asia, where the majority of the world’s Muslims live. In Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and southern Thailand, Wahhabis have co-opted (or replaced) village and neighborhood imams, and there is a fresh stream of converts returning from stays as guest workers in Saudi Arabia.

The children of poor converts are often taken to Saudi Arabia for “education” and many are returned as cannon fodder for use by Wahhabi terrorist fronts.[18] In India, efforts are underway to capture a portion that country’s huge Muslim minority as well as the Untouchable Caste (sic).

And this article mentions that

Sudan created a ‘special fund’ of more than 3,000 crores for the purpose of setting up new mosques and more madrassas in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India

Hostel in Kerala for Kashmiri students

Photograph at the inauguration of an exclusive hostel for Kashmiri students in Kerala, funded by “The Red Crescent”.

Here is an alarming report from 2000 on Foreign funds for new mosques, madrassas in J&K which talks about a special fund being set up by groups in S Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya and Sudan…

…(to seek) further growth of Islam and Islamic institutions and religious places in India (and)…construction of at least 40 new mosques in Jammu province till the end of 2002.

Yet, data on foreign funding of madrasas is scant. As this ToI report mentions, until at least 2002, there was no mechanism to check the receipt and utilisation of foreign funds by madrasas nor did the government have any data on it.

While doing the background research for this post, I stumbled on this report from 2004 by Ramtanu Maitra that talks about

…plans (by the Saudi royal family) to construct 4,500 madrassas in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka at a cost of US$35 million, to promote “modern and liberal education with Islamic values”.

Interestingly, according to the same report (cited above), China rejects all religious donations that come from abroad.

If the scale of these efforts (and the size of these funds) is not worrying enough, there is more.

In his article, Ramtanu Maitra draws the link between Gulf-based “charities” and terrorist activities.

…it has been widely accepted in India that in many countries, particularly in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Islamic militants were funded by foreign charitable organizations through madrassas. One such group, Pantech, based in Pakistan and engaged in establishing madrassas in Nepal, has been identified as an ISI front group.

and

There is compelling evidence that suggests that some, if not most, of the money spent by various Saudi outfits to spread Wahhabism ends up financing militancy and terrorism. As a result, following September 11, funds moving out of Saudi organizations to various religious institutions, including madrassas, have been monitored carefully.

Recent reports by Western intelligence sources splashed all over the media stated clearly the role of some Islamic charities, such as the Global Relief Foundation that operated within the United States prior to September 11 and was suspected of helping the terrorists against the US. Much of Global Relief’s funds came from Saudi Arabia.

Another Saudi government-supported charity, al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, is now under the US Treasury Department’s scrutiny. Once it operated in 50 countries, providing health care and welfare assistance, and proselytizing for Wahhabism. In March 2002, the US Treasury designated al-Haramain offices in Somalia and Bosnia as financiers for terrorists. Washington forced the Saudis to shut them down. As reports began to trickle out, it became evident that financial support to the Chechen refugees from al-Haramain, and approved by both Saudi Arabia and Russia, was in reality diverted to support the mujahideen as well as Chechen leaders affiliated with al-Qaeda networks. Subsequently, one by one, al-Haramain’s branches in Africa, Asia and Europe were identified and closed. But reports indicate that al-Haramain functions undisturbed in Bangladesh.

I think most of you must have got the picture by now.

In the light of what I have outlined in my two posts, is there not a case to impose a blanket ban on all foreign funding of religious organisations in India (and before someone asks, I would extend this ban to “Hindu” religious organisations too)?

Is it not time to consider the grave implications and serious ramifications of allowing vast sums of money that flow in under the guise of “aid” and “charity” but effectively erode the essentially liberal and tolerant ethos of this country?

Is it not time to take note of this large-scale, silent and indirect – but deadly – invasion of India and attack on its roots?

Is it not time to say that foreign funds cannot be allowed to change the character of Bharat and the nature of India?

Thoughts, comments and views welcome as always. Pl. remember: keep it civil, keep it polite. Thanks. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Part I is here: Should we ban foreign funding of religious institutions?

Related Posts:

Of Saudi Arabia, Petro-dollars and Terrorism

The Increasing Talibanization of South India

and finally a thought-provoking excerpt from an article by Ramdas Lamb writing in the Washington Post:

…In early 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and agreed to stop all conversion attempts directed at Jews. A month later, Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, visited India and was asked while there if he would offer Hindus the same respect. He refused.

There is a degree to narrow mindedness in every religious tradition, but when that is coupled with fundamentalist arrogance and powerful backing, nothing good can come from it.

.

26 Comments »

  • 1. Sid said:

    Shantanu,

    You have just proved that you are a “insecured”, “illiterate” and “internet Hindu” bigot because you have talked about cutting the income source of the few famous “intellectuals”. Now, wait for the “Episode II:the secular brigade strikes back”. :)

    Good article.

  • 2. Shaswa said:

    Many of the christian missionaries near my hometown use their funds for conversion both directly n indirectly. for ex: they offer concessions to only christian students which inturn encourages many poor families to convert.

  • 3. M. Muthuswamy said:

    I am author of the new book Defeating Political Islam: The New Cold War. My book provides an unprecedented view of jihad buildup in India. In fact, India is under an Islamist siege.

    I also discuss how the shortcomings in Indian democratic system make it particularly vulnerable.

    India can win the jihad imposed on it. But the Indians have to know their enemy and themselves better. More details in my book.

    I urge you folks to read my book and spread the word around.

  • 4. Vivek said:

    Saudi money has already started pouring in to all parts of India, not just J&K. In my hometown, Rajahmundry, a mosque was built at a cost of approximately 5 crores according to official records. Word has it that this mosque is actually supported by Egyptian and Saudi sources and that locals received 20 crores – 10 from egypt, 10 from saudi.

    With this mosque, a whole bunch of beef shops popped up. This area initially had a lot of hindu population, the density has come down drastically in recent years. Dont have numbers right away to prove this point but the shift in demographics is clearly visible. As it is, there has been a steep increase in number of christians and churches. As many as two major areas as far as I know are now having at least 1 church with 2-3 mosques near by. These places are time bombs waiting to blow off. It is only a matter of time before some one from the church opens a pork shop and triggers a clash.

    Not that hindus are sitting lame ducks. There are concerned citizens, some associated with RSS-VHP and some independent observers. The problem is that nothing can be done because most of the time, the polity sides with muslims on grounds of tolerance and secularism. In one such incident, an Ambedkar statue was being put up in front of a mosque and muslims said they cant allow it to be right in front of the mosque. The plans to put up the statue were on display for more than 6 months then. There were clashes between SC/ST sanghams and Muslims. Sec 144 was invoked and sub collector had to convince SC/ST sangham leaders to move the statue away from there. He replaced the statue with a clock tower. The incident is well documented in local newspapers, especially Eenadu.

    The major backing muslims/christians are getting is money power. Money power brings in

    1) media coverage (every time a pastor comes, local cable bombards the public with an ad every 10 minutes)
    2) power to lure the poor (I personally witnessed one such conversion)
    3) bribe politicians in getting permission to build mosques/churches in places where another community already has strong presence
    4) rent space/infrastructure to organize religious congregations for mass conversions

    Locals have to take active interest in stopping these activities by organizing mass congregations about Hindu culture, traditions etc.

    Bharath Vikas Parishad in my home town has been doing extraordinary work in this respect. Since 2003, BVP has been organizing continuous spiritual talks and the audience have grown from 800 in 2003 to 3000 in the recent talks. Last time, BVP organized a short survey to see who their audience were. Survey revealed that at least 50 percent of the audience are in age group 15-25. This proves that spiritual interest is not just in old people but also to a good extent in youngsters.

    BVP started to encourage this age group by using some innovative means. For instance, in the last such congregation, Sri Samavedam Shanmuga Sarma of Rushipeetham Magazine spoke on “Aranya Parvam in Mahabharatam”. During this discourse, BVP gave a small questionaire constituting 20 questions on what the speaker spoke in the last couple of days. The youngest 10 to answer the questions correctly were to be rewarded with some special prizes. They received as many as 500 responses out of which 200 were under from youth under 20.

    BVP also took up tasks of cleaning up Godavari on important dates when people come to take bath in Godavari. For example, during last Karthika Month of Hindu Calander. BVP being an organization of well educated people including lecturers, doctors, bank employees, lawyers and so on, the event had great impact. Not just the people but also the municipality couldn’t ignore the event. They jumped in to action immediately on day 2 of the event because the people who were doing their job were their accountants, their lawyers, their child’s teachers etc.

    This is the way we should protect Hindus from getting lured in to conversions. Educated middle class taking action is the right way. We have seen change for good ever since BVP started some interesting. How long can we hold on with only BVP doing this kind of work is a question that could be answered only in time, unless of course BVP grows in strength with more educated participating actively.

  • 5. B Shantanu (author) said:

    @ Sid: Now, wait for the “Episode II:the secular brigade strikes back”. Thank you for warning!

    @ Shaswa: Pl leave comments on Christianity & conversions on the other thread.

    @ Sh Muthuswamy: Thanks. I will have a look.

    @ Vivek: Thanks for sharing a first-hand account and details of the work done by BVP. Pl read this post in case you have not already done so: http://satyameva-jayate.org/2009/03/11/challenge-before-hinduism/

    You will find it interesting.

  • 6. CC said:

    Is that Kabir Bedi grinning in the picture with the other Saudis in the picture?

  • 7. Bharat said:

    I wanted to saying something about the the ‘personalities’ in the picture.

    One who is to the nearest to the ‘wall’ (rightside) is Kanthapuram Abubakar Musaliar (one of the most conservative sunni leader and also was an accused in one of the infamous Chekannur maulvi murder case, but as is the norm of our judicial system I think he is no longer an accused in the case.

    Another interesting person is T.K.Hamsa, the communist & “secular” leader of CPM.

    Please read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekannur_Maulavi to know more about the murder case.

  • 8. Khandu Patel said:

    I entirely agree that India is under siege of religious invaders who are incompatible with our security. The other side of the coin is the problems inherent with Hindus and their failure to comprehend all manner of threats throughout its long history.

    As I said, the problem is inherent in Hinduism which fails to eliminate the threats and accordance with its long tradition of soaking up its invaders accommodated them. That is entirely the case with the many millions of Bangladesh’s that have illegally settled in India: we must not forget illegal Pakistanis that have disappeared into India.

    India’s enemies will pursue their aims very vigorously is to be expected. The very real lapse on the part of Hindus that has ignored hardship of our co-religionists is bad enough – but their oppression and exploitation has provided a real incentive to them to leave Hinduism’s fold.

    You should concern yourselves less with the problems of others and give the highest priorities to the hardships and problems of your co-religionists. If similar concern was followed up with the problems of the minorities, there is no reason why a functioning government could not prevent the present abuses.

  • 9. AG said:

    I think hindus are starting to look more and more like dinosaurs… the rules of the game have changed and extinction seems inevitable

  • 10. B Shantanu (author) said:

    @ Bharat: Thanks for the background information and link. I will have a look.

    @ Khandu: I did not fully understand your point re. “You should concern yourselves less with the problems of others and give the highest priorities to the hardships and problems of your co-religionists.” Would you please elaborate?

    Pl note that there may be a significant delay in my response as I am away for a few weeks.

  • 11. Khandu Patel said:

    @Shantanu

    What I am saying is quite clear: Hindus should look after and protect each other in a healthy respect for the Hindu polity. That can hardly be the case when as a principle of our religion fate is substituted for compassion: this has given full rein to the oppression and exploitation of our own fellow Hindus.

    There is much complaint about favours accorded to Muslims and Christians in India: might not that be the case because Hindus have through religion and philosophy negated such benefits for themselves.

    As far as I can see in all the discussions taking place, Hinduism has singularly failed to address this fault line. The remedy for it is simple enough: it has to come from it being espoused as a political principle by Hindus for Hindus.

  • 12. null said:

    fear mongering

  • 13. Ajitabh DAS said:

    Sadly but truly India is a vulnerable land so far as foreign religious organisations (such donors) are concerned. It’s because Hindus themselves are divided into various casts, race and linguistic layers. This is because Hinduism is not an institutionalized religion, it’s more a school of thought than an organized dogmatic, radical culture.

    For a long time, India did not have a leader like Vivekanand or Aurovindo to tell the masses about the qualities of Hinduism; in contrast we have now organisations like Bajrangdal and Shriram Sene who have tarnished the image of this religion. RSS has always been busy in showing herself anti-muslim than a true hindu organisation thus they’ve failed to play a constructive role in organising hindus (it means Indians) by taking lessons from our old texts. Instead because of their incompetent handling of this, Hindutva word has become a word fully devoid of intellectual discourse, and sometime abusive too in the media.

    Thus in terms of religion, India presents a good case of laboratory for Saudis and Evangelicals, where people’re religious but mostly without understanding its real ethos, and thus can be easily misled by other religious brainwashing elements. Democracy gives them a chance to be misguided too.

    So far as the question of banning the foreign fund is concerned, I don’t see it can solve the problem in long term. It will be more important for the government to play the role of an efficient welfare state so that people should not be attracted towards this foreign fundings. And secondly and more importantly, India needs a social reform in their structure where everybody should be treated equally, and all citizens should be conscious about their nationhood.

    Ajitabh DAS

  • 14. Khandu Patel said:

    @Ajitab

    Until the cultured and educated Hindus recognise the problems that are rooted in Hinduism, India can never make any progress in dealing with the many threats that are threatening them. I am pleased that at least one person has seen the light.

    You have made a beginning by by recognising that Hindus should not see themselves through the prisms of their jats. Caste is a misnomer because ancient India never recognised, any such distinctions. Like much else our own identities were allowed to be redefined by others and now orthodox Hindus swear by the religious sanction of the Bhagavid Gita to justify caste divisions.

    Let us be clear that in society there will be divisions but those divisions should be be justified for their benefits to Hindu society. I see no benefit to society which labels and disadvantages whole swathes of the Hindu population to ritual impurities, indignities and ignorance of their inherent nobility as human beings.

    The battle lines between Hindu orthodoxy and the pseudo secular forces is nothing new. They are as old as Hinduism itself. This should not be surprising as the secular power also battled out in ancient Greece. The difference with Greece is that it was settled in favour of the secular power. That is what made their conquest of the ancient world including Bharat possible.

    The right ordering of society is also about the ideas that really count. Their should doubt about the importance of the Hindu religion to the Hindu, but let us frame our beliefs on a rational basis where it serves our deepest spiritual needs and not allow it to hinder our very human needs.

  • 15. B Shantanu (author) said:

    @ Khandu, null and Ajitabh: Thanks for sharing your thoughts…Hope to respond in the next few days.

  • 16. B Shantanu (author) said:

    An extract from an interesting interview of the Imam of Jama Masjid, Mufti Shabbir Ahmed Siddiqui on Narendra Modi:

    Q: What do you think of the rise of Tabligh Jamaat in Gujarat?

    A: There is communalism (firqabandi) in Islamic community here. Tabligh Jamaat and Ahl-e-Hadees are active. But the spread of Tablighis in Gujarat has been checked by BJP government. They were thriving on foreign funds. When government found out that most of the funds were coming through illegal channels like havala and they were being utilised for a wrong purpose, it started snapping these financial chains. The financial crunch has restricted their aggressive propagation of militant ideology. This happened after they began to prosper by opening relief camps during earthquake and riots, relying on huge funds from abroad. Their spread is mainly on the power of this foreign money.

    Q: You have been alleging that there was gross misuse of such funds by Tabligh Jamaat.

    A: Many Tablighi maulvis misguided Muslim youth after the communal violence. Mufti Sufiyan Patangiya and Mufti Abdul Qayyum provoked youths to avenge 2002 atrocities on Muslims, and they drew power from foreign funds.

  • 17. B Shantanu (author) said:

    A brief excerpt from Wahabi infiltration worries Sri Lanka by P K Balachandran:

    …Sufi leaders (in Sri Lanka), who have taken up the cause on behalf of the moderates, told Express here on Sunday, that there was a real danger of Wahabism preparing the ground for Islamic terrorist activity in Lanka. This could reach India also, the warned.

    ..“The Saudis are spending US$87 billion per year on spreading Wahabism across the globe,” said Riyyaz M Sally, president of the Islamic Solidarity Front (ISF).

    “The Wahabis (who belong here to a variety of organisations like the Tawheed Jamat and Jamat e-Islami) give money to a poor Muslim to take a house in a locality, convert it into a Madrasa and then into a mosque. Most of these mosques are not registered as registration has to have the approval of three other mosques in the locality, a requirement which the promoters will not be able to fulfil. Only 35 of the 300-odd mosques in the island are registered,” Sally said.

    Scholarships are given to young Lankan Muslims to go to religious institutions in Saudi Arabia. They are sent back to spread Wahabism. Funds are no problem.

    With the Wahabis entrenched in power, the prescribed texts for Islamic studies in the English medium Ilmi international schools are being revised to rid them of any reference to variations in Islamic laws and practice. These are substituted by the rigid Wahabist thought. “References to the four Madhhab or schools of law, namely, Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali have been steadily shortened over time and substituted by Wahabi laws,” the Maulavi said.

  • 18. संदीप नारायण शेळके said:

    So why does the so called moderates muslims are silent across the world? Wahabis already have larger presence in Bharat. But moderates here are opportunists.

    Jai Bharat!

  • 19. Sid said:

    Sandeep,
    You need to understand “moderates” in context of religion. It means that “as long as it is not popular to take a side, I would not; however, if one side is victorious, I will claim a share”. That is a Hindu moderate and as the secular wave is in dominance, every Hindu moderate is a secular.
    On the other hand, “moderate” in the context of Islam (because I do not think it is just a religion) means “I would wait for Sheikhs to fund and other idiots to fight against infidels and when they are victorious I would celebrate with them; If they are not, then I would demand victimhood; meanwhile I stay silent”. See, that is the smartest strategy.

  • 20. Arvind said:

    India, like China, should stop ingress of religious donations from overseas. Persons convicted for Hawala transactions should face a minimum imprisonment of 30 years with hard labour.

  • 21. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Putting this here for the recor. Courtesy Wikileaks, S Arabia “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups wrldwide” incl. al-Qaeda, Taliban & LeT http://bbc.in/fNdjot

  • 22. repo man said:

    Good of you to mention that. Did you see the wikileaks document on corruption in Russia. Read it / or a report on it please – you will see its strikingly similar to India in this regard. (Guardian website is good)

  • 23. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Another one for the record (courtesy a comment by anonymous on another thread):

    http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2010/3749sarabia_terror_hrc.html

  • 24. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Excerpts from How terror funds are pumped in from Saudi by Vicky Nanjappa:
    Sources in IB also say that they can name at least 40 different charitable organisations that are set up in various parts of Saudi Arabia whose primary job is to raise money for funding terror in India.

    The links to Saudi Arabia became extremely clear when the police tracked a hawala transaction of $10,000 (about Rs 4,60,000) which was used to carry out the July 11, 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai that killed 209 people.
    ..
    The collection points in India have been tracked down to three states, mainly Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Intelligence Bureau officials have been tracing a lot of such transactions to these states and they suspect that they are only meant for terror financing.

    Andhra Pradesh has always had a strong network and money continues to be pumped into that state as well. The big worry is however Kerala for investigators since the entire issue becomes very confusing considering a large Kerala population in the Gulf countries.

    There is a report which states that the annual remittance into Kerala through hawala is Rs 20,000 crore. A large part of this money is not meant for terror financing and there are people who are sending money home since they find this method easier. Hence it becomes very difficult to differentiate in this case.

  • 25. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Just a random thought: Can there really be peace among faiths/belief systems unless Islam and Christianity give up their twin dogmas of (i) Only one way and that is my way (ii) the emphasis on evangelisation and converting everyone to their world-view?

  • 26. B Shantanu (author) said:

    From Kashmir: Relief of Rs 600 cr used to finance terror, says NIA by Vicky Nanjappa:
    ..The National Investigation Agency is investigating ten cases related to funding of terrorist groups. They have found that in all Rs 600 crore has been pumped in for terror operations since the last two years through donations and relief funds. The organisation which has topped this list is the Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Fund Trust.

    NIA officials told rediff.com that during investigations they found the organisation alone had pumped in Rs 95 crore. The money was being collected under the pretext of relief work in the valley. The NIA has learnt that the group is headed by two Pakistani nationals Mahboob Haq and Masroor Dar, who subscribe to the Hizbul Mujahideen.


    Intelligence Bureau officials say that the terror funding takes place from three main branches in Pakistan located at Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Muzzafarabad. There are collection points in India at Pulwama, Kupwara, Sopore, Budgam, Doda, Baramula and Srinagar. These funds help run the India operations, controlled by nearly 40 outfits in Pakistan.

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