Established in August 1941, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is the largest Islamist organization in Pakistan. It is also a political party of considerable influence. According to Global Security.org:
“JI's intellectual inspiration primarily came from thoughts of Maulana Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi, who along with the great thinker poet Dr. Mohammed Iqbal, set the pace for contemporary Muslim thinking in the South Asian sub-continent.... The JI envisions a state governed by Islamic law and opposes Westernization -- including capitalism, socialism, and such practices as bank interest, birth control, and relaxed social mores.”
JI aligns itself with extremist elements in al Qaeda, the Taliban and many other violent factions. It even has its own militant wing, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, which has committed numerous terrorist attacks against Indian civilians. JI's former militant wing, al-Badr, was involved in a 1971 Bangladesh massacre that reportedly took the lives of up to 3 million mostly-unarmed citizens.
Like most Islamist groups in South Asia, JI regularly holds angry demonstrations that it calls “political rallies.” These events are usually aimed at the sitting government of that particular JI locale (Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, etc.) and/or the United States.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was not uncommon for television viewers around the world to see images of heated JI-sponsored rallies denouncing America. One such demonstration, held on September 21, 2001, featured some 3,000 protesters shouting such slogans as “Death to American soldiers” and “Long live Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.”
A staple of JI demonstrations is the ritualistic burning-in-effigy of U.S. Presidents. In recent years, likenesses of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have been torched by JI members at their rallies.
In 2009, JI launched a new “Go America Go” movement that, according to JI leader Syed Munawar Hassan, was “aimed at driving the U.S. out of this land.” Calling the United States “an enemy of Islam, the Muslims and Jihad,” Hassan asserts that “[a]ll Islam- and Pakistan-loving forces must unite against America.”
The banner across the top of Jamaat-e-Islami’s main website reads “GO AMERICA GO.” At one particular “Go America Go” rally, JI Secretary General Liaquat Baloch pledged that his organization would relentlessly “continue the movement to routing out America from the region.” He warned, moreover, that “a 1971-like situation” was brewing in Pakistan -- a reference to that year's aforementioned massacre.
Suspecting the Pakistani government of capitulating to covert U.S. influence, JI resents Pakistan's recent crackdown on some of the country’s more extreme Islamist elements. In 2009, JI rallies began to feature chants of “Friend of American is a traitor.” As well, demonstrators smeared Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghani President Hamid Karzai as “slaves of Washington.”
JI’s American affiliate is the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). One of ICNA's key liaisons to JI is Muhammad Yusuf Islahi, a JI leader in India. A featured speaker at ICNA’s 2009 national convention, Islahi is the Chief Patron of ICNA’s "Why Islam?" project. Moreover, ICNA’s official website is registered to a site that is linked heavily to JI, and that solely promotes Islahi speeches.
This profile is adapted from the article "Exporting Pakistan's Anti-America Movement," written by Joe Kaufman and published by FrontPage Magazine on July 15, 2009.