Jamaat-e-Islami and its financial resources

30 Jun 2015


Ever since the emergence of Bangladesh, the Jamaat-e-Islami knew that war crimes trial is an inevitability that it will have to face one day and to meet this eventuality it has assiduously built up a huge corpus. The party has over the years built up resources that generate substantial income.

According to Abul Barkat, a professor of Economis at Dhaka University, Jamaat has created a “state within state” and an “economy within economy”. It earns an annual profit of $278 million from different business ventures it runs in the country. Ten percent of this goes to sustain Jamaat and fund other militant religious outfits.

According to Prof Barkat, while the mainstream national economy grows by 6 percent, the growth rate of Jamaat-controlled economy is 9 percent. He further stated that the Jamaat-run economy amounts to 8.62 percent of the nation’s developmental budget.

Apart from its business earnings, Jamaat has been receiving funds from organizations like the Qatar Charitable Society, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society of Kuwait, UK based NGOs including Institute of Islamic Political Thought and Muslim Aid, and US based Islamic Council of North America (ICNA).

The Saudi based Islamic NGO, Rabeta-al-Alam-al-Islami is one of the important sources of Jamaat funding. Other NGOs funding the Jamaat include Kuwait Relief Fund and Al Nahiyan Trust of UAE. The funds are received from these NGOs mainly through the Jamaat-controlled financial and charity institutions. An important charity organization of the Jamaat is Al Hera Samaj Kalyan Foundation founded in 1982. Its activities include preaching Islam, publication of religious books and journals, running madrasas, orphanages, charitable dispensaries including Ibne Sina Diagnostic Centers located across the country, disbursing loans and assistance to the poor.

As part of its indoctrination programme the Foundation also distributes books on Islamic resurgence and scriptures among the people free of cost and assures the gullible people of a renaissance through Islam. The Foundation is also engaged in manpower export by arranging employment in the Gulf and West Asia. Jamaat has around 30 such charity institutions.

Money is received through many covert channels including Hundi. Resalah Courier Service is exclusively used for channeling money to Jamaat. This courier service is headed by Mujibur Rahman Mandal, a former President of Jamaat student front Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS).

While Jamaat’s earnings from internal resources is slated to be higher than income from its overseas assets, most of the leading institutions generating funds are closely connected with organizations and individuals based in West Asia and Gulf.

Islami Bank Bangladesh which ranks among the top three banks of south Asia is floated from Saudi Arabia and has about 60% of its shares owned by Saudi individuals and institutions. The bank is associated with the Al Razee Bank of Saudi Arabia. It was started in 1975 at the initiative of the then Saudi Ambassador in Dhaka, Fuad Abdullah Al Khatib and his wife. Apart from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar are also important share holders of this bank. While the Islami Bank Bangladesh constitutes the backbone of Jamaat’s finances, there are 14 other banks in Bangladesh that are controlled by the Jamaat. Other important Jamaat-managed financial institutions in Bangladesh include Far Eastern Islamic Insurance Corporation, Islamic Mutual Fund Ltd and the Islami Bank Foundation.

The establishment of financial institutions provides Jamaat an opportunity to launder money from abroad and also channel unaudited funds to other Islamic groups controlled by it. Funding to the militant organizations from abroad comes mainly through Jamaat-controlled Islamic financial institutions. Ahle Hadis Andolan Bangladesh (AHAB) chief Prof. Asadullah al Galib was one of the main conduits for receiving and distributing funds from abroad to other such radical groups. Some of these groups also received funds directly.

Jamaat owns a number of publishing houses, newspapers and a think-tank, the Center for Strategic and Peace Studies (CSPS). Its daily ‘Naya Diganta’ which was established in 2005 with a corpus of Tk 100 Crore is currently one of the largest circulated dailies in the country with a print run of around 1,25,000 copies. Diganta Television, a private satellite channel of Diganta Media Corporation that brings out ‘Naya Diganta’, reaches large number of households to propagate Jamaat ideals and mobilize public opinion in its favor. However, the Diganta TV has been recently taken off the air by a government order. The Daily Sangram, Jamaat mouthpiece, is one of the oldest and among the largest circulated vernacular dailies in the country. Jamaat-backed publishers include Adhunik Prokashoni, Shatabdi Prokashoni etc. The party also publishes magazines like Youth Voice, booklets and Islamic literature and sells them.

The Jamaat has also made inroads in the education sector. Islamic Training Centers which train the youth in low level technical skills such as electronic repairs, car repairs etc are important instruments of Jamaat propaganda machine. The Darul Islam Coaching Centers that have establishments in all the sixty four districts of the country have also sponsored private universities including the International Islamic University in Chittagong which was established with financial assistance from the Saudi based International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO).

Education in the Darul Islam Center lays stress on technical skills which provide employment to the youth. These institutions play a crucial role in strengthening Jamaat’s network among the student community in a planned manner to expand its influence apart from generating huge finances for the party.

The party is providing jobs to unemployed youth in Saudi Arabia against donation. A former Jamaat leader Al Haj Md Habibul Islam, based in Jeddah, has been arranging employment of Bangladeshi youth in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Jamaat-run coaching centers, spread across the country, generate huge revenue. There are 35 branches of 12 coaching centers located in various parts of the country. Retina Coaching Center which prepares students for admission in colleges offering professional degrees including medical and engineering is the biggest Jamaat-run coaching center set up in 1980 and it has 15 branches spread across the country. The amount of income generated by the coaching centers for the party is kept a close guarded secret.

The Jamaat-sponsored Association of Muslim Welfare Agencies of Bangladesh (AMWAB) has more than 350 NGOs operating in the rural areas across the country with the avowed objective of upliftment of the rural poor by undertaking various social welfare activities such as digging up well in areas adversely affected due to water scarcity and providing unemployed youth with interest-free loan to generate self employment. Apart from propagating and preaching Islam in the rural areas, these NGO workers have been noticed distributing books on Islamic resurgence among the devout Muslims in the mosque premises after Friday prayers and making promises to them of an Islamic renaissance in Bangladesh.

While the Bangladesh authorities have recently observed that the financial sector needed to be scrutinized and monitored in view of terrorist funding and money laundering issues, the Jamaat stands as a party with significant financial resources which enables its NGOs to penetrate the society at large, especially the lower middle class and the poor. The party hopes that this section of people will come forward to its rescue and stand by it when the war crimes trial culminates.

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