Just days before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, American Islamists hosted a memorial ceremony for a hardline Kashmiri separatist leader who had reportedly sympathized with the attacks' mastermind Osama bin Laden and called him a "martyr."
Soon after U.S. Navy SEALS killed the al-Qaida leader in a 2011 raid on his Abbottabad compound in Pakistan, Syed Ali Shah Geelani called on Islamic clerics to pray for the slain terrorist.
"Muslim clergy should organise funeral prayers in their mosques for peace to the soul of Osama bin Laden," Geelani said. "Osama [bin Laden] was not just a person but also an ideology against occupation of Muslim lands by foreigners. Western countries must realise that suppression of Muslims in their lands will result in resistance."
Geelani, who spearheaded the Kashmir separatist movement for over three decades, died Sept. 1.
He was closely affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir (JI J&K), and his mentor was Jamaat-e-Islamic (JI) founder and Islamist ideologue Syed Abu Ala Maududi.
In addition to holding different leadership positions with JI J&K, Geelani, 91, also served as the organization's "Amir-e-Jehad (Head of Jihad)."
India banned JI J&K in March 2019 on charges it provided "ideological" and "logistical support" to Kashmiri terrorists and extremists to engage in anti-Indian activities. The ban followed the Pulwama terror attack that claimed the lives of 40 Indian Central Reserve Force soldiers. Indian news reports have tied JI J&K to Pakistan's powerful intelligence services.
These connections were all well known. But they didn't give the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)'s social justice arm pause about co-sponsoring the Geelani memorial. ICNA founders support JI's ideology and seek to establish Iqamat Deen, or the Islamic system of life, in North America with the ultimate goal of founding a global Islamic state or Caliphate.
ICNA described Geelani's death as "a great loss to this Ummah [global Muslim community]" and called him "a symbol of determination and courage against illegal Indian rule in Kashmir."
The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of American Islamist organizations, issued a statement calling Geelani "the great defender of the rights and freedoms of the Indian-besieged and -occupied Kashmiri people." Geelani, it said, was a "'symbol of resistance' to the government of India's brutal and draconian policies of oppression in Jammu and Kashmir."
In 2019, India voided a "temporary" constitutional provision – written in 1949 – that divided J&K into two federally-administered territories that are now governed directly by New Delhi. The USCMO since has worked to stoke an anti-India backlash, including organizing protests, lobbying the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to "exert maximal pressure on the Indian government to lift its lockdown on Kashmir," and meeting with State Department and United Nations officials to spotlight the "dire humanitarian crisis" in J&K. These concerns are exaggerated and parrot Pakistan's vicious misinformation campaign against India.
J&K has been a source of tension between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both India and Pakistan claim the state in its entirety and have fought multiple wars over it.
While American Islamists continue to propagate the myth of human rights atrocities in J&K, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholar Michael Rubin praised the successful conduct of local council elections in the union territory since the Indian action. Billions of dollars have been earmarked for infrastructure and development projects in the region and there has been a decline in terror incidents and terrorist recruitment.