Careful not to show disrespect to the Islamic tradition of helping the needy, the U.S. State Department on Wednesday described as “very hollow” Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed’s offer of help in dealing with the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy.
As “Twitterverse” was abuzz with references to the offer, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad tweeted its response: “We respect the Islamic tradition of help to the needy, but we can’t take Hafiz Saeed’s offer seriously. Saeed is wanted for suspected involvement in the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166. JuD is a U.N. & U.S.-designated terrorist organisation.” Later, at the regular briefing, the State Department spokesman said: “This particular offer strikes us as very hollow”.
The response came a day after JuD offered unconditional support and help for the hurricane victims. The offer drew a lot of attention — bouquets and brickbats alike — and JuD has been using the social media to keep the discussion alive by posting articles on the subject that have appeared across the world.
In response to the U.S. refusal, the JuD said: “Our help is for the American people, we will engage Muslims in U.S. to be at forefront to help their fellow countrymen.” Also, the JuD sought to point out that its ability to deal with such situations has been certified by organisations that “you deem credible” like the World Health Organisation and International Committee of the Red Cross.
While making the offer, Hafiz Saeed had said that if the U.S. government allowed, his organisation would send doctors, relief, rescue experts, food and medicine to the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. “Regardless of what [the] U.S. government propagates about us including their announcement of bounties, we look forward to act on the traits of our Prophet by helping and serving adversity-struck American people, considering it our religious and moral obligation.”
According to the JuD, this was a humanitarian issue. “Wherever and whenever humanity is at stake, and needs urgent help, Islam orders us to help them without discriminating between religion, caste or creed,” their statement had said. It had also listed the other countries where it “carried out relief activities”: Sri Lanka, Indonesia and elsewhere after the 2006 tsunami and after other natural disasters. “Even India was offered help by JuD during earthquake that damaged life and property. In a similar way we are already helping minorities, especially Hindus in Sindh, during the on-going flood.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. had announced a $10-million bounty for evidence that could lead to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed, a move that helped him consolidate his position among right-wing organisations and vindicated Pakistan’s stance on him. Islamabad has always maintained that it would act against him if actionable evidence was provided. Whenever questions are raised about him walking around a free man and addressing rallies, the counter has been that he had been detained after the Mumbai terror attack case and let off by the Lahore High Court, a decision endorsed by the Supreme Court.
In recent years, the JuD — a reincarnation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba — has sought to reinvent itself as a charitable organisation. As part of this image makeover, the JuD has made it a point to flag off truckloads of relief material during natural calamities from Islamabad where bulk of the international media is located.