Illicit Charity Prepares for Ramadan
With Ramadan just around the corner, over one billion Muslims around the world will turn their focus to religious reflection, fasting, and charitable donations to alleviate the suffering of the poverty-stricken and hungry. While most of these donations are intended for and received by legitimate recipients, abuse of the charitable sector remains a source of income and community support for violent extremists groups around the world.
Charity abuse is especially a problem in Pakistan, where the banned group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) – responsible for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai – continues to operate its charitable arm with little hindrance across the country. It seems that the ban has had little effect on the group other than forcing it to make multiple name changes to avoid prosecution. Known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), LeT’s charitable arm also operates as Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). The U.S. State Department and Treasury have designated Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (and its aliases to include FIF) a terrorist organization.
To demonstrate the extent of the impunity with which the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation operates, you need only to navigate your web browser to the group’s website. On its website visitors will find three new flyers posted in preparation for Ramadan 2011.
The three flyers (pictured below) cover information regarding the projects that FIF plans to undertake, lists of needs, as well as how and why one can and should contribute to the group. For example, the first two flyers enumerate the services that FIF is planning such as medical centers, ambulance service, and water projects. They also list the amount of money the group needs for these projects.
Also, the first flyer encourages donors to give during Ramadan, citing hadith it states that the Prophet Muhammad was known to give generously to the needy during Ramadan. Next, specifically for Ramadan, flyer three indicates that FIF is accepting donations to pay for the suhoor (daily pre-fast meal) and iftaar (breaking of the daily fast) for those that cannot afford it. The flyer states that donors can pay for someone’s iftaar with a donation of Rs. 1,800 and a Rs. 3,000 donation can cover both iftaar and suhoor.
Lastly, all three flyers provide address, phone number, website, email address, and instructions for writing a bank draft to “Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation.”
Unfortunately, the problem is not as simple as shutting down FIF. First, there remains a lack of clarity on the relationship between Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment and LeT (and its aliases). A true severance of ties between the “establishment” and LeT (and its aliases) is a critical first step. Next, Pakistan is plagued with weak public institutions, corrupt leadership, and is crippled by a lack of functioning infrastructure. The combination of these factors severely limits the ability of the state to provide key services for much of its population, especially those in the rural areas in Pakistan’s north and northwest. For this reason, in addition to pushing for shutting down FIF, the U.S. must work with the Pakistani government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to ensure viable alternatives to FIF exist.