Mixing relief with religion, JuD way in Pak

Islamabad: Hundreds of people, including Hindus, staying in flood relief camps run by a front organisation of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah in Pakistan`s southern Sindh province are being "peppered liberally" with Islamic teachings, according to a media report today. About 2,000 living in tents in camps set up by the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, the relief arm of the JuD, were rescued by the group`s volunteers. They are provided meals twice a day, "a daily dose of food peppered liberally with religious teachings", The Express Tribune reported.

"They come and remind us again and again to offer namaz," said a man who fled floods in Malkani and is living at a relief camp in Badin. He said the people in the camps are not forced to pray though there is plenty of encouragement as families have been given prayer mats and copies of the Quran. "Namaz parho, Quran parho, safai karo! (Say your prayers, read the Quran and clean up)" said a woman, mimicking a female instructor at the camp.

At a relief camp in Golarchi, coordinator Mohammad Ashraf said classes in Islamic syllabus are being imparted to 60 families, including 18 Hindu families. "The biggest problem here is the lack of education," he said. Asked to elaborate, Ashraf said: "There were old, bearded Muslim men who did not know how to recite the Kalima!

"Now, Masha Allah, there is no one who does not. We have taught them the namaz, as well as the required prayers to recite before and after a meal… Even the Hindus sit in the session because we tell them about cleanliness and also, it is consistent in all faiths to say God`s name before starting a meal." .

Ashraf evaded a question on whether camp residents are mandated to attend these sessions on religious education, which are held after Maghrib prayers for men and during the day for

children. JuD chief Hafiz Saeed told the daily: "We do not forcibly make children go to jihad or pray namaz. This is propaganda against us. You can go in and ask anyone at the camp. First, you cannot force anyone, and even if we did, no one would then come to our camps." Though the JuD is often critical of the US and India, Saeed and other Falah-e-Insaniyat members emphasised its "equal" approach in rehabilitating flood victims of all faiths.

Saeed, who addressed hundreds of flood victims at Badin, said the Falal-e-Insaniyat had not differentiated between victims because the floods were a tragedy and this showed how "united" the country was in crisis. Though residents of the relief camp in Badin said there were no Hindus there, there were 18 Hindu families at the camp in Golarchi, including a woman who insisted she had been treated well.

Falah-e-Insaniyat workers said they did not know why there had been discrimination in providing relief to Hindu flood victims. "In one case, we had Hindu traders who would give us food and supplies directly because they trusted our distribution system," said JuD spokesman Nadeem.

Ashraf claimed that at Karhio Ghanhwar city, over 200 Hindu families had not been provided any aid by the government. Though the spotlight has been on the JuD for its alleged role in 2008 Mumbai attacks, Saeed said he believed the group`s exoneration in courts had helped improve its standing in Pakistan.