Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Western Islamists Work to Build the Taliban’s Afghanistan into a Global Caliphate

ResearchInvestigationsWestern Islamists Work to Build the Taliban's Afghanistan into a Global Caliphate

An axis of Islamists in the U.S, Germany, and the United Kingdom – connected to Deobandis and international terror-tied Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir – is working, an FWI investigation has discovered, to provide ideological and material support for the Taliban, while encouraging the violent regime to move beyond tribal and cultural identities and instead develop a global Islamist state under strict sharia law.

Chicago-based charity Islamic Oasis is working with a German-British organization named the Qamar Charity Foundation to build both the ideological and welfare infrastructure for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Islamic Oasis and Qamar appear inseparable. In Afghanistan, they share staff and projects, and regularly appear in each other’s promotional material as if a single organization. Together they build mosques, teach in the Taliban’s universities, run joint events and refer to each other as “our team.”

The Taliban explicitly welcomes their charitable efforts in the country. In December 2022, the office of the Taliban’s prime minister explicitly praised the “Qamar Foundation … and other charitable institutions” for their “cooperation” with the “Islamic Emirate.”

A meeting organized by the Taliban Prime Minister’s office praises the work of the Qamar Charity and organizations such as Islamic Oasis. Qamar Charity Foundation officials attended the event. It is not known whether Islamic Oasis staff were also present, although Qamar and Islamic Oasis share staff and other resources.

In January of that year, during Islamic Oasis head Muhammed Shirazi’s first visit to Afghanistan, he boasted of meeting, along with the Qamar, two of the Taliban’s “provincial governors” as he toured the country.

Then, in August 2022, the Taliban government funded an Islamic Oasis and Qamar project in Mehtar Lam, a city in the Laghman province. The $83,000 bridge was built, Qamar claims, “in partnership with Islamic Oasis.”

Taliban Officials open a bridge funded by the Taliban’s Ministry of Public Works, and built by the Qamar Charity and Islamic Oasis

Subsequently, other Taliban offices have consistently praised the Qamar Charity’s efforts, with Taliban governors attending launches of the charity’s projects.

A New Era of Islamism

Islamic Oasis and Qamar’s desire to involve themselves with the new Taliban-run Afghanistan was almost immediate. On August 27th 2021, just a few days after the Taliban took Kabul, Islamic Oasis organized a discussion with Shirazi and Qamar’s founder, Rahmatullah Nowruz.

They were joined by Mohammed Malkawi, a prominent leader within Hizb ut-Tahrir (he reportedly founded the American branch of the movement), and Omar Baloch, a radical cleric infamous for his promotion of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and support for a caliphate.

Shirazi declared that the “victory in Afghanistan” was at risk from the “colonial mindset” in the rest of the world. Baloch agreed, warning that Israel and India pose a particular threat, warning about the collaboration between the “musrikeen [pagans] and the yahud [Jews].”

Nowruz explained that “nobody is saying the current [Taliban] government is perfect, but if we all work together, we can make it perfect. At least close to the perfect; at least better than the last four decades that we have lived.”

A few months later, in November 2021, Shirazi and Nowruz were advancing a clearer idea of their possible roles. Shirazi organized another Islamic Oasis webinar with Nowruz, to discuss the “direction Afghan leadership could take the nation.”

Shirazi and Nowruz were once again joined by Mohammed Malkawi, and added Yasir Nadeem Al-Wajidi, a prominent Chicago Deobandi scholar who has long expressed open support for his Taliban brethren.

Malkawi explained that the “ummah is willing to provide the utmost support given that Afghanistan continues to insist on the implementation of the Islamic laws completely at all levels, economic, political as well as social.”

Wajidi opined that the Islamic Emirate was “an opportunity for the entire Muslim Ummah to see full-fledged complete Sharia being implemented,” declaring Afghanistan to be “the only region where the hope is alive.”

Participants also discussed economic challenges, such as the lack of consensus over how a sharia economy might work. Despite serving as officials of registered Western public charities, they candidly spoke of a need to avoid the notice of Western governments, suggesting the use of cryptocurrencies “not controlled by anybody, but decentralized so they can literally bypass the American banks.” (Indeed, the establishment and use of cryptocurrencies is a recurring topic of discussion at Islamic Oasis events).

During the November 2021 event, Shirazi and Nowruz also speculated how their organizations would assist if the “Taliban said come and help us be part of the government.” Shirazi noted that charity organizations such as Islamic Oasis can assist with this new Taliban regime, without making Afghanistan “dependent” on Western institutions; while Nowruz explained that they would be working to “build infrastructure, support the government.”

The Taliban’s Afghanistan is “an opportunity for the entire Muslim Ummah to see full-fledged complete Sharia being implemented.”

Chicago Deobandi, Sheikh Yasir Nadeem Al-Wajidi

Malkawi added that the Taliban should not rely on Islamic states such as Qatar or Turkey, but the ummah and its charitable efforts: “Focus on the Muslim ummah, build a foundation, make a call immediately, make a call for all Muslims. Unite as individuals, as organizations. Come and help right now – I need your help. … I guarantee you and I guarantee to brothers in Taliban, they will be overwhelmed with the amount and the quantity of very sincere Muslims who have the knowledge and who have the know-how and who can work for zero money …”

Nowruz further explained that Muslims, through charitable contributions to “organizations like Islamic Oasis,” can help support this new Afghanistan. He added that he has been “discussing with organizations in America,” as well as Canada, the UK and Germany, the means to coordinate this ideological effort in Afghanistan.

By January 2022, Shirazi and Nowruz were in Afghanistan. Shirazi and Nowruz were joined by El-Zafarani Osman, a British Muslim with a strong British Midlands accent. Osman joined them as a representative of British aid consultancy organization Osman Consulting. He claims also to work with “international NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam and a number of others.”

Shirazi and Nowruz subsequently travelled the country, meeting with the Taliban’s “provincial governors.”

In messages broadcast to Islamic Oasis supporters back in America, Shirazi urged Western Muslims to come to Afghanistan [emphasis added]:

“What I’m trying to say is that you can come here, there are ways obviously you can come here. I came from the United States, …  you can get visas to come here. Professionals are needed here. Doctors, engineers, teachers who know what they’re doing, who can actually help us build the infrastructure here, they’re needed because a lot was also destroyed because of the war and things like this. So I am encouraging people, really people of knowledge, people of skills, people have who are well-educated. They need to be here, they need to come and they need to help. And we can facilitate whatever way inshallah for those people if anyone that wants to come and help. And the government is very open about it. Look, they’re asking people to come because they know they need help.

Islamic Oasis and Qamar’s efforts to support the Taliban’s Afghanistan had begun in earnest. Qamar’s Nowruz offered that his organization could arrange visas for American Muslim supporters of Islamic Oasis to visit the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and join this effort to build the new caliphate.

Chicago’s Taliban Supporters

On the north side of Chicago, Islamic Oasis serves not just as an international aid charity, but also operates a mosque, school and community center as well. It manages various sister organizations, such as a group named Men of the Ummah, which, through martial arts classes and similar activities, is “dedicated to cultivating an Islamic environment for Muslim brothers.”

Sheikh Muhammed Shirazi established Islamic Oasis in 2008, along with his wife, Essraa Abdel-Ghany, following years of “dawah” [proselytization] efforts across the city.

Moving to humanitarian aid work paid off for Shirazi. By 2022, Islamic Oasis claimed annual revenue of over $5 million. Its recent financial supporters include a collection of reputable donor-advised funds, as well as smaller Islamist-run grant-making foundations.

Islamic Oasis 501(c) Funders:
501(c) GrantorTax YearGrant Amount
Network For Good2021$121,681
Network For Good2020$84,177
Schwab Charitable Fund2021$42,500
Schwab Charitable Fund2020$21,600
Network For Good2019$12,329
American Online Giving Foundation Inc2020$11,473
American Online Giving Foundation Inc2021$11,034
Aziz Jamaluddin Charitable Foundation2019$10,000
Network For Good2018$9,581
Islamic Food & Nutrition Council Of America2020$9,000
Aaa Private Foundation2019$8,000
American Online Giving Foundation Inc2019$6,699
The Humanity Projects2017$5,850
Islamic Food & Nutrition Council Of America2021$5,000
Islamic Food & Nutrition Council Of America2016$5,000
Aziz Jamaluddin Charitable Foundation2020$5,000
Muslim Community Center2021$5,000
Darul Sadaqa7862021$5,000
Ansaar Usa For Relief And Development2016$4,700
Ansaar Usa For Relief And Development2019$2,500
Aaa Private Foundation2016$2,250
Islamic Food & Nutrition Council Of America2018$2,000
The Arif Foundation2014$1,200
Aaa Private Foundation2020$1,000
Baird Foundation Inc2020$750
The Bank Of America Charitable2020$500
Assurant Foundation2020$500
Amazonsmile Foundation2021$88
Nakadar Foundation2010$50
Amazonsmile Foundation2020$41

Although Shirazi appears to be involved with the Deobandi sect of Islam (to which the Taliban also subscribes), he rejects the parochialism typically associated with that movement, and works closely with other Islamist forces, including radical international Salafi movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the British government recently banned as a terrorist organization.

In keeping with both his Deobandi and Hizb ut-Tahrir influences, Shirazi regularly calls for the imposition of sharia law, and the establishment of a caliphate. He has celebrated Hizb ut-Tahrir conferences inside Afghanistan, but focuses more closely on how the entire ummah can build on the “Taliban victory.”

Islamic Oasis and Shirazi’s efforts are not just limited to Islamism in Afghanistan. Islamic Oasis is also active in Syria, where it partners with organizations such as One Nation, a British Islamist charity that previously worked closely with ISIS activists and was once investigated by Britain’s Charity Commission for the terroristic and anti-Semitic rhetoric of its volunteers and staff.

Other Islamic Oasis partners in Syria seem to include Shajul Islam, a disgraced British doctor now living in Syria, where he fled after British authorities accused of him involvement in terror offences, including the kidnapping of journalists in Syria. 

Shirazi recounts of his time in the country: “My experience in Syria, especially when it comes to what I found, is that a lot of Islamic, or the Muslim activists, they are emotional about the fact that they want to live in the Islamic state, they want to work for Islamic state, they want to see it happen.”

In Gaza, Islamic Oasis works with other radical U.S charities such as Rahma Worldwide and Pious Projects, both of which FWI recently caught apparently collaborating directly with designated terrorist organizations.

Shirazi beseeches God to “give [the Palestinians] victory over their enemies and the enemies of this deen [Islamic religion].” And on October 7th, Shirazi posted Hamas footage of the attack on Israel, praising the “Mujahideen shaking the earth” and calling for Palestine and to be “freed from the filth that occupies it today.”

In Kashmir, Shirazi advocates arming Kashmiri Muslims against Indian forces, and seems to urge Pakistan to deploy nuclear missiles and other weapon systems. He dreams of a Pakistani army that “will liberate lands from Kashmir to Palestine.”

“May the blessed land and Masjid al Aqsa be freed from the filth that occupies it today. Imagine few determined Mujahideen shaking the earth under the occupation! Imagine if the armies of this Ummah unite!”

Muhammed Shirazi, head of registered 501(c)3 Islamic Oasis

Back in the United States, along with the education services and charitable activities it provides in Chicago, Islamic Oasis also runs frequent lectures with radical speakers and guests.

In March 2022, Shirazi interviewed Mazhar Khan, a leader in Britain’s (now-banned terror organization) Hizb ut-Tahrir, to discuss the necessity of an Islamic caliphate. In fact it was Khan’s behavior in London after October 7th, when he was filmed chanting “Jihad!” that led the British government to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir.

A poster shared on social media by Shirazi, condemning ostensible Arab inaction over Gaza

Other Islamic Oasis events have featured support for convicted terrorists such as Aafia Siddiqui, conversations with radical Salafi activists such as former Guantanamo Bay inmate and “jihadist recruiter” Moazzam Begg, as well as various denunciations of India and its Hindus.

Islamic Oasis embraces overt anti-Semitism without the slightest hint of shame. In January 2024, Shirazi interviewed radical activist Jake Brancatella to discuss the problem of the “Jews” and their treatment of “goyim” and “Muslims.”

Jews, Brancatella claims, believe they are allowed to kill “gentiles.” In light of the atrocities in Palestine, Brancatella explained during his ninety-minute explanation of Jewish duplicity and their cruel treatment of non-Jews, it is important to understand that “these people are our enemies; they are not our friends.” He further warns Muslims “not to take the Jews and the Christians as allies.”

Qamar Charity Foundation

Islamic Oasis’s key partner in Afghanistan, the Qamar Charity Foundation, is based out of Germany, but manages offices in the United Kingdom and Afghanistan as well.

The U.K. office, which has also operated under the named the “Afghan Trust,” is based out of Crown House in northwest London, also the home of hardline Salafi charity the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA). British media and counter-terror researchers consider the iERA to be one of the country’s most extreme Islamist groups, with several of its members having joined ISIS. (The Crown House address is also linked to a number of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organizations, reports Britain’s Daily Telegraph.)

The driving force behind Qamar and its spin-off groups is Rahmatullah Nowruz, an Afghan Islamist activist who has lived in Europe for decades. Nowruz also runs a private school system in Afghanistan; the Qamar Institute for Social and Islamic Research, an Islamic institution based inside Afghanistan; as well as an online education initiative named Ulearna.

As with Islamic Oasis’s staff and guests, Nowruz is openly extreme. He has, for instance, re-posted text on social media by a prominent anti-Semite that defends Nazi treatment of the Jews, denounces Anne Frank as a fraud, and warns about the “Jewish history of avariciousness, larceny, lying, manipulation and their questionable and usurious business practices.”

The Qamar Charity’s own social media accounts post supremacist material, such as TikTok videos that paint non-Muslims as deformed deviants, along with videos seemingly lionizing Taliban operatives.

A Divided Ummah

Despite their hopes for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Islamic Oasis and its partners are aware that the Taliban is not always the most amenable of partners.

“We did send a very high level delegation. The brothers in Taliban, five prominent members … refused to meet the delegation.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir America founder Dr. Mohammed Malkawi

All sorts of obstacles risk stunting hopes for a new caliphate. Across multiple videos posted by Islamic Oasis, Shirazi and his guests lament the deleterious effects of national borders, as well as the tribal problems in Afghanistan that sow internal divisions. But the greatest issue of concern for Islamic Oasis is the Taliban’s application of Deobandi Islam, which Shirazi and others fear is too parochial, and worry that Afghanistan is still “not ready for khilafa.”

In one conversation with prominent Chicago Deobandi cleric Yasir Nadeem Wajidi, Shirazi referred to Taliban Afghanistan as the “frontline” of the battle to impose Islamic law, asking Wajidi what “role” Western Islamic “scholars” could play.  Wajidi warned that non-Deobandis within American Islam and elsewhere were less likely to support the new regime. He advised Islamic Oasis and others needed to “raise awareness in the ummah” that Afghanistan is an opportunity for all supporters of the caliphate to build the new caliphate.

Radical cleric Omar Baloch has offered similar concerns, warning about the Taliban’s intransigence over pan-Islamist collaboration: “Deoband scholars are not going to invite someone who’s outside the circle of Darul Uloom.”

Baloch explained that his own mentor, Pakistani cleric Israr Ahmed (founder of Islamist movement Tanzeem-e-Islami), had once tried but failed to hand a “suitcase of cash” to the Taliban, who turned him down.

Chicago Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Malawi added that, more recently, his own movement “sent a high-level delegation” to Afghanistan, but the “brothers in Taliban … refused to meet.”

Underscoring the recurring problem of significant Muslim opposition to Islamism, Wajidi and others added their concerns that too much of the Afghan diaspora in the West is opposed to the Taliban.  Wajidi recounted a visit to an American Afghan mosque: “I was told before I gave a speech that make sure that you don’t say anything about Afghanistan … you can talk about the plight over there but don’t say anything about Taliban because people over here hate the Taliban.”

A Future Caliphate

Islamic Oasis and Qamar are far from the only Taliban supporters in the West. Other European and American Islamists are also working to coordinate support for the Taliban regime. In the United Kingdom, for instance, a new organization named Prosper Afghanistan, in collaboration with the Islamist charity Human Aid, arranged in July 2023 for a delegation of British Salafi and Deobandi imams to visit Afghanistan and meet with senior Taliban government ministers.

Since then, Prosper Afghanistan has a published a steady feed of Taliban propaganda.

Much of the work Islamic Oasis and Qamar today appear to be conducting in Afghanistan is not the building of life-saving infrastructure expected of aid groups, but instead it works to shore up the ideological infrastructure on which the Taliban relies, through the construction of cheap mosques across the country. Shirazi has posted hundreds of photos of such Islamic Oasis projects across Afghanistan since the Taliban took control.

Whether or not these contributions will be enough to open the Taliban regime up to even closer involvement with Shirazi and others’ modernist strain of Deobandi Islam, as well as collaboration with non-Deobandi Islamists such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and other Salafi organizations, all remains to be seen.

But even if the Taliban is being intransigent, its supporters in the West are practicing a remarkable ability to unite once discordant ideological forces. Counter-extremism analysts and law enforcement should be deeply concerned that this growing Western coalition of radical voices and registered charities are building a steady base of support for a hostile regime and basing their activities around the establishment of an Islamist caliphate overseas.

FWI reached out to Islamic Oasis and Muhammed Shirazi, offering an opportunity to provide comment. Shirazi responded that he was too busy to talk.

Whether or not Islamic Oasis, Qamar and its various allies are breaking the law is not entirely clear. That Qamar fundraises through U.S. dollar accounts (along with accounts at British banks such as HSBC), and Islamic Oasis events discuss the use of cryptocurrencies to avoid U.S. oversight, will presumably worry a significant number of law enforcement agencies.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan government includes members of the designated terrorist Haqqani network. Given that Islamic Oasis and Qamar appear to be contractors of the Taliban regime, a material support terrorism case could conceivably be made.

In addition, U.S. Treasury-imposed sanctions against Afghanistan are in place. However, these sanctions are far from extensive, and the general licenses issued by the federal government to operate in Afghanistan appear generous and subject to rather questionable levels of enforcement.

Notwithstanding, an American registered charity such as Islamic Oasis actively building Taliban-funded infrastructure, in cooperation with European registered charities, at the very least deserves further investigation from authorities, and a fundamental re-thinking about the general lack of federal oversight over the U.S. 501(c) system. Meanwhile, European governments, which wield greater statutory powers to punish misuse of charitable systems, may well feel inclined to investigate the Qamar Charity’s operations in Germany and the United Kingdom.

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