By Bill Roggio
January 17, 2017
The Afghan Taliban mourned the death of the leader and founder of a Pakistani Islamic university known to have supported al Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the region. Maulana Salimullah Khan, the Pakistani cleric, was also the president of Pakistan’s largest confederation of Deobandi seminaries and schools. His son and grandson were deported from the United States for immigration violations after the FBI linked them to an al Qaeda plot in California.
“It is with great sadness to have learnt that a famous scholar of the Islamic world, the head of Wifaqul Madaris al-Arabiya Pakistan and a renowned scholar of Hadith and Tafsir, Hazrat Maulana Salimullah Khan Sahib (may Allah have mercy on him) passed away due to an ongoing illness,” the Taliban announced yesterday in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda website.
Salimullah has “rendered unforgettable services in social and intellectual fields” and “shall forever be remembered for his extensive services in the promotion and growth of religious Madaris (seminaries) and centres of learning.”
His death is “an irreparable loss for the entire Muslim world and specifically for the followers of knowledge, Dawah [preaching] and Jihad.” The Taliban thanked him for providing “Jihadi services.”
Salimullah was one of the founders of Jamia Farooqia, an Islamic university in Karachi, Pakistan known to have “strong connections to the Taliban movement in Afghanistan,” according to The Los Angeles Times. Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistani journalist who was murdered by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate for exposing ties between jihadist groups and the state, described Jamia Farooqia as one of several “pro-Taliban seminaries” in the country.
Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden “counted the scholars of the Farooqia school among his supporters” during his infamous 1998 press conference where he declared war on the United States and the West, The Sacramento Bee reported in 2005.
Salimullah son, Muhammad Adil Khan, and grandson, Muhammad Hassan Adil, were arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 and ultimately deported for immigration violations. The two were arrested and linked to an al Qaeda plot tied to the Farooqia Islamic Centre in Lodi, California. According to The East Bay Times, government officials said that Jamia Farooqia was “a ‘haven’ for Mujahideen fighters” and Salimullah’s son “hoped to create a similar school in Lodi to train future Jihadis.”
In addition to his ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, Salimullah also had “at least a historical connection to Harakat-ul-Mujahideen,” one of many Pakistani jihadist groups aligned with al Qaeda, according to The Los Angeles Times. Harakat-ul-Mujahideen was listed by the US government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in Oct. 1997. Harakat-ul-Mujahideen was founded by Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who signed Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa. Pakistani intelligence had used Khalil as an emissary to communicate with al Qaeda. Asim Umar, the current emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, was also a leader in Harakat-ul-Mujahideen [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Osama bin Laden’s Files: The Pakistani government wanted to negotiate and US adds Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, leader to terrorism list.]
Salimullah also served as the president of Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan, a confederation of more than 18,000 Deobandi seminaries and schools throughout the country. Many Pakistani madrasas are fertile recruiting grounds for jihadist groups and some are known to actively recruit, indoctrinate, and train students to wage jihad throughout south and central Asia and beyond. In 2013, Salimullah and Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Arabia proposed a cease-fire between the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Pakistani government. The Pakistani Taliban has taken advantage of peace deals to regroup and rearm for the next wave of fighting.
The Pakistani government has done little to stop schools like Jamia Farooqia and Salimullah from supporting jihadists.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.