Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

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Lashkar-e-Taiba’s upper income recruits

May 30, 2013

Pakistani militants

Far from being impoverished orphans, the young men recruited by Pakistani terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) tend to be among “the best and brightest” of Pakistani society, according to a study released last month by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point based on biographies of 917 LeT members.

The findings severely undercut British Prime Minister David Cameroon’s position that Western development aid to Pakistan improves education and reduces poverty which in turn prevents extremism.

The foreign aid is not preventing terrorist recruitment, some of the aid is stolen by Pakistani elites, and some of the aid is given to terrorist groups through Pakistan’s ISI spy service.  There is no longer any justifiable reason to continue transferring taxpayer money from the West to Pakistan.

From ProPublica:

Terror Group Recruits From Pakistan’s ‘Best and Brightest’

by Sebastian Rotella
ProPublica, April 4, 2013

Imagine a terrorist group that recruits tens of thousands of young men from the same neighborhoods and social networks as the Pakistani military. A group whose well-educated recruits defy the idea that poverty and ignorance breed extremism. A group whose fighters include relatives of a politician, a senior Army officer and a director of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission.

That is the disconcerting reality of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the world’s most dangerous militant organizations, according to a study released today by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The report helps explain why Pakistan has resisted international pressure to crack down on Lashkar after it killed 166 people in Mumbai — six U.S. citizens included — and came close to sparking conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.

The findings, which draw on 917 biographies of Lashkar fighters killed in combat, illuminate “Lashkar’s integration into Pakistani society, how embedded they are,” said co-author Don Rassler, the director of a research program at the center that studies primary source materials. “They have become an institution.”

The three-day slaughter in 2008 drew global attention because it targeted Westerners as well as Indians and implicated Pakistan’s spy agency. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continues to protect the masterminds, according to Western and Indian counterterror officials. U.S. prosecutors indicted an ISI major in the deaths of the Americans: He allegedly provided funds, training and direction and served as the handler of David Coleman Headley, an U.S. reconnaissance operative now serving 35 years in a federal prison.

The 56-page West Point report is titled “The Fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death.” Though it refrains from policy suggestions, there are implications for U.S. counterterror strategy. Lashkar’s popularity and clout defy conventional approaches to fighting extremism, said co-author Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University.

“When you have an organization that enjoys such a degree of open support, there are no options for U.S. policy other than counterintelligence, law enforcement and counter-terrorism targeting,” Fair said in an interview.

Lashkar was founded in 1989 by Hafiz Saeed, its spiritual chief today, and other ideologues. The ISI deployed Lashkar as a proxy force against India, especially in the disputed Kashmir region. Although banned by Pakistan in 2002, the group still functions unmolested, the ISI provides funds, military training and arms, and ISI officers serve as handlers for Lashkar chiefs, according to Western and Indian investigations. The U.S. officially declared Laskhar a terror group in 2001.

The West Point researchers said they used “massive amounts of material that the group produces about itself” to analyze the trajectories of Lashkar fighters who were killed between 1989 and 2008. The researchers translated from Urdu the 917 biographies that appeared in four extremist publications, including one written by mothers of fallen militants.

Recruits often become holy warriors with the help of their families, which admire Lashkar’s military exploits in India and Afghanistan and its nationalism and social service activities at home, the study says. Unlike other terrorist groups, Lashkar does not attack the Pakistani state.

The group’s vast training camps have churned out fighters at an alarming rate. The study gives an estimate of between 100,000 and 300,000 total trainees. By comparison, a U.S. counterterror official told ProPublica he has seen figures as high as 200,000, though he put the number in the tens of thousands.

Most recruits examined in the study joined at about age 17 and died at about 21, generally in India or Afghanistan. Their backgrounds contradict “a lingering belief in the policy community that Islamist terrorists are the product of low or no education or are produced in Pakistan’s madrassas,” the report says.

In fact, the fighters had higher levels of secular education compared to the generally low average for Pakistani men, the report says. Relatively few studied at religious schools known as madrasas. They joined Lashkar — which spews anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-Indian rhetoric — because they wanted more meaningful lives, admired its anticorruption image and felt an obligation to help fellow Muslims, the study says.

“These are some of Pakistan’s best and brightest and they are not being used in the labor market, they are being deployed in the militant market,” Fair said. “It’s a myth that poverty and madrasas create terrorism, and that we can buy our way out of it with U.S. aid.”

Lashkar’s publications downplay its longtime links to the security forces, the authors said. But connections emerge nonetheless. Lashkar recruits aggressively in the districts of the Punjab region that produce the bulk of Pakistan’s officer corps — “a dynamic that raises a number of questions about potentially overlapping social networks between the army and (Lashkar),” the report says.

“It looks like based on what we have as if there’s a considerable degree of overlap,” Fair said. “The military and Lashkar are competing for guys with the same skill set.”

At least 18 fallen fighters had immediate family members who served in Pakistan’s armed forces. Although most recruits were working or lower middle-class, some “had connections to elite Pakistani institutions and Pakistani religious leaders and politicians.” The study cites Abdul Qasim Muhammad Asghar, son of the president of the Pakistan Muslim Leagueʹs labor wing in Islamabad and Rawalpindi…

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130 requests for zakat, and counting

November 20, 2012

Money Jihad has just added a new page to the website cataloging about 45 previously unpublished requests we’ve received from Muslims around the world asking us to give them money through zakat donations.

Some of the requests claim to be for personal reasons—such as helping somebody with their education or helping them get out of debt—but some have a broader Islamic agenda such as “helping us to raise Muslim power” or “making Islam gain ground.”  Most of the messages don’t request a specific amount.  The smallest amount sought is $200; the largest request hints at $1 million.

Take a look!  Some of them, like one requesting help with “skull fees,” are unintentionally humorous.

There are about 85 separate requests on this old post, too, including a comment that “-Jihad -zakaat, I hope it will go a long way in achieving all predetermined goals.”

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“Anomalies” checker Sudan’s zakat fund

June 24, 2012

Sudan, one of six countries in the world with a mandatory, government-run zakat collection and distribution program, has accused its zakat chief of “administrative anomalies” regarding fund distribution.

The Koran 9:60 requires that the zakat tax be spent on eight groups:  1) the poor, 2) those in temporary distress, 3) the tax collectors themselves, 4) new converts to Islam as an incentive for conversion, 5) captives for their ransom, 6) debtors, 7) the mujahideen, and 8) wayfarers.

The Sudan Tribune is careful in its reporting to refer to the poor as the only eligible group, as is often the case when English speaking Muslims describe zakat in media that may be monitored by Western analysts.  But Sudanese lawmakers understand that Islam calls for a broader distribution of funds.

The zakat chief herself is probably well aware of group #3 above, and may have felt entitled to shave a little off the top.  The best case scenario is that this is just be another example of the miserable state of corruption, theftineffectiveness, extreme overhead, and incompetence of zakat administration throughout the Islamic world.

The more disconcerting possibility is that some of the unaccounted for funds may have been diverted to group #7 in accordance with the Koran.  But without the proper disclosures, we’ll never really know.

Read it all:

Sudan: Lawmakers Grill Sudanese Minister Over Zakat Authority

>Khartoum — Sudan’s minister of social welfare, Amira Al-Fadil, faced volleys of criticism on Wednesday from members of the national parliament who accused her ministry-run Zakat Authority of administrative anomalies.Al-Fadil appeared in the parliament to answer questions regarding a report she previously presented on the operations of the Zakat authority which is run by the ministry of social welfare.

The head of the parliament’s external relations committee Mohammed Al-Hassan Al-Amin said that the director of the Zakat Authority has been receiving instructions to disburse funds to certain quarters instead of giving it directly to the poor as the authority’s mandate stipulates.

“We want the money to go directly to the poor without passing through intermediaries” he told the minister.

Another MP, Aisha Al-Ghabshawi, also criticized the Zakat Authority, accusing it of being involved in investment and commercial activities. She further faulted the Zakat authority for releasing funds through microfinance projects, saying that this has prevented the needy from receiving their money directly.

Similarly, the MP and former media minister Abdella Massar said that the Zakat Authority has turned into a tax-levying institution. He went as far as saying that the Zakat money was being spent on political agendas.

Massar demanded that the Zakat money be sent to the poor as required by the laws that established it.

Reacting to the criticism, the minister Amira Al-Fadil accused the MPs of being subjective. A remark she was later forced to apologize for after MPs insisted that she retracts her statement.

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Islamic law creates economic toilet bowl

November 9, 2011

Michael Schuman at Time magazine has written a good article openly supporting the theory that the Islamic world suffers economically because of Islamic law itself.  Normally, the mainstream media subject readers to arguments about the legacy of colonial “exploitation” or some other nonsense to explain Muslim poverty, so this honest acknowledgement of the obstacles to economic growth that Islam creates is quite refreshing.

Islam’s prohibition of riba (interest), while not specifically cited in the article, is certainly one of the major factors which retarded the development of modern financial systems in the Islamic world.

The economic condition of Islamic nations is quite depressing.  One recent article revealed that inequality is rampant across Islamic countries, and that 230 million people in Islamic countries suffer from hunger.  Amazingly, while millions of Muslims live in misery created largely by Islam, Iranians and Muslim allies of the Occupy Wall Street protestors have the nerve to criticize American capitalism and its effects on the world.

From Time’s Curious Capitalist blog on Oct. 18:

Is Islamic law to blame for the Middle East’s economic failures?

One of the great mysteries of economic history concerns how the Islamic world lost its mojo. A thousand years ago, the Middle East was richer and more influential in the global economy than Europe. According to data compiled by the late economist and statistical wizard Angus Maddison, the Middle East accounted for about 9.5% of global GDP in the year 1000 while Western Europe’s share was less than 9%. By 1700, however, the situation had totally reversed, with Western Europe commanding a hefty 22% of global GDP and the Middle East a pathetic 3%. The Arab world had controlled many of the lucrative trade routes between Asia and the West, but that role got usurped first by the Portuguese, then by the British and Dutch. What went wrong?

Economists and historians have struggled over that question for centuries. The answer is not just of academic interest. The revolutions that have swept through the Middle East, toppling dictators in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, got a good part of their momentum from the widespread public frustration over the persistent lack of economic progress and opportunity omnipresent in the Middle East. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the new governments that have emerged from the Arab Spring is providing the jobs and higher incomes all of those young people who participated in the rebellions desperately expect. If the new political leaders fail to deliver, the Arab Spring, which has brought such hope to the region, could deteriorate into a cycle of protest and political upheaval that will only set back its economic development.

There have been many theories of how the Middle East lost out economically to the West. But they have generally felt unsatisfactory. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Poverty up after decades of Pakistani zakat

April 14, 2011

With apologies to Dr. Powell, left-wing journalists, Ernst & Young, Muslim apologists, and the rest of the motley crew that thinks zakat is the recipe for economic and social development around the globe, the people on the frontline of the zakat welfare system in Pakistan are reporting that zakat there has bred a culture of institutionalized and growing dependence.  The poor have not been rehabilitated by the system.

Leaving aside the horrid nexus between zakat and terrorism, the fecklessness of zakat as a model for social justice is striking, as we have pointed out here, here, and here.  Now read the same critique from a Pakistani mouth in the Nation on Apr. 12:

Although the Zakat system had been introduced some three decades ago and tens of billions have been distributed to deserving people since then, no government, federal or provincial, has taken any step for their permanent rehabilitation or bringing an end to their dependence.

The amount of money given to a person or a family is so small that the recipient cannot even think of setting up any small business or shop to become self-reliant. The students who are given assistance to enable them to complete their studies also find the amount inadequate. Poor patients are also helped in treatment through Zakat funds, but such people have to go from pillar to post before qualifying for the assistance.

The number of Zakat dependents is not coming down either, which is against the very spirit of the system. In fact, the billions claimed to have been spent through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) have also failed to bring about any positive change in the situation.

The rising number of beggars shows that the Zakat system, for whatever reasons, has not brought about the blessings it should have.

Since the number of those going below the poverty line is going up by the day, there is little hope for the number of Zakat recipients going down in the foreseeable future.

Also, not a single person informed the government during the past three decades that he doesn’t need Zakat any more as he or his children have started earning enough to make both ends meet.

The system has been politicized to a large extent as the committees and their heads who distribute Zakat are nominees of the government. And it is an open secret that no one is given this position unless he has strong connections with the ruling party.

Decades gone and ‘everybody’ needs Zakat.