Pakistani brothers reflect country's contradictions

 

Lahore, Pakistan

One cleric is a wanted terrorist who preaches that the United States is Pakistan's worst enemy, determined to "wipe out every Muslim" with the help of his other nemesis, the Jews. His name is Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

The other cleric fondly recalls his years in the United States, where he drove a Chevy Suburban and allied himself with a prominent rabbi to promote religious tolerance. His name is Hafiz Muhammad Masood.

Masood, 54, and Saeed, 62, are brothers. Their conspicuously different paths illustrate the often contradictory nature of Pakistan itself, a country that behaves like both friend and foe to its chief patron, the United States — frequently at the same time.

As much as Pakistanis are said to loathe U.S. policies, many eagerly seek opportunities for themselves and their children in the United States. Masood was one of them, spending 21 years in the Boston area.

Today he is the spokesman for the Lahore-based religious charity that his brother heads, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or Party of Truth. The United States calls it a terrorist front group tied to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and has offered $10 million for evidence leading to Saeed's arrest or conviction. Masood has denied the accusations.

Unlike his fiery-tongued brother, Masood displays a calm, good-humored nature. He has an easy command of American idioms, such as "one size fits all" and "this is a no-no."

Masood returned to Pakistan only grudgingly, after pleading guilty in 2008 to visa-related violations. He left behind his comfortable job as an imam at the Islamic Center of New England, as well as his wife and eight children.

"Believe me, I love American life, and for many aspects," Masood said contemplatively, sitting in a quiet room across the courtyard from the capacious two-level mosque where his elder brother delivers his rants against the United States, India and Israel. "People are very logical, they are very open, and I found the Islamic work very, very enjoyable in American society."

The world knows much about Saeed and the other U.S.-designated terrorist group he founded: Lashkar-i-Taiba, or Army of the Pious. Officials say Lashkar-i-Taiba carried out the three-day attack in Mumbai — killing 166 people, including six Americans — and is responsible for several other deadly operations against India. The $10 million reward puts Saeed in the same top-tier terrorist category as fugitive Taliban chief Mohammad Omar.

Far fewer have heard of Masood, whose 15-year tenure at the Islamic center in Sharon, Mass., won him praise for outreach to other faiths. His supporters, including members of a local synagogue, said the immigration case stemmed from anti-Muslim bias.

"He was a positive influence on the community, and I didn't think it made a whole lot of sense to deport him," said Rabbi Barry Starr of Temple Israel in Sharon. "I found him to be a gentleman, a gentle person, a person of peace."

In Masood's view, the case against him represented classic guilt by association. "When they want to find something on you, they will," he said with a hearty laugh.

In lengthy conversations, Masood, a stocky man with a chest-length beard, rarely seemed angry or bitter, even though he gave up everything he had worked to achieve in the United States: His family, a five-bedroom house on five acres, three cars, a lovely garden and access to the swimming pool and tennis courts on the Islamic center's grounds.

"I lost my worldly life," Masood said. "I lost that for good."

"Hafiz" is a title bestowed on those who have memorized the entire Koran. Saeed, Masood and their younger brother, Hamid Mahmood, all earned that distinction, as have their two sisters.

Their father was a farmer, Islamic teacher and respected village elder. "He did conflict resolution," Masood said.

Their mother ran a religious school for children. With her prodding, Masood learned the Koran by heart by age 10.

In 1965, war broke out between Pakistan and India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. It soon touched the family's village, about 120 miles west of Lahore.

Actually, there was no fighting there; it was wartime paranoia.

Rumors flew that Indian spies might infiltrate the village. Their target: the nearby Pakistani air force base at Sargodha. The teenage Saeed grew convinced that Indian paratroopers might land in the vicinity.

He organized a group of boys — 30 or 40 of them — to stay awake all night, brandishing sticks to guard the village, he recently told a Pakistani newspaper.

"I still remember that the boys were fully charged," recalled Masood, who was 7 at the time. Their leader instructed them to beat the bushes looking for Indians and "any suspicious activity."

Did they ever catch any spies?

"No," he said, laughing.

As young men, Masood and Saeed earned advanced degrees in Pakistan and became professors. The elder brother focused on Islamic studies and Arabic literature, while Masood's specialty was Islamic economics.

The younger brother's path led him to the United States on a student visa in 1987. He took his wife and five small children, enrolling first at Vanderbilt for a semester, then earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in economic policy at Boston University.

Saeed went in a different direction. His advanced scholarship took him to Saudi Arabia, where he studied in the early 1980s under the same teacher who once instructed Osama bin Laden.

After supporting the fight to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, Saeed in 1990 established Lashkar-i-Taiba to target Indian troops in Kashmir. For years, Pakistan's main intelligence service backed Lashkar-i-Taiba as a proxy against India.

Official support ended when then-President Pervez Musharraf banned the group in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But it has still enjoyed tacit sanction.

After the ban, Saeed disassociated himself from the militant group and said it no longer exists. Instead he runs Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which many investigators describe as a benign facade behind which Saeed has tucked Lashkar-i-Taiba. But there is no denying that it has earned goodwill across Pakistan for its schools, anti-poverty programs and health clinics, as well as its relief work for flood and earthquake victims.

Saeed has been periodically placed under house arrest but never convicted of any crimes. He has insisted that he has no connection to Lashkar-i-Taiba.

As for the Mumbai attacks, Saeed was exonerated by Pakistan's Supreme Court, which declared that "the India lobby" concocted the charges.

In gentler tones, Masood echoes his brother's accusations that India, with U.S. help, is scheming to dominate Afghanistan as a way to intimidate Pakistan. He also calls the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan illegal and imperialistic.

Muhammad Amir Rana, an expert on extremism here, said that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is trying to establish a different identity and build a political base, but that it retains its militant links.

The group has made clear that it opposes attacks within Pakistan and condemned the Pakistani Taliban's recent shooting of the young education activist Malala Yousafzai. But no matter how mild Masood comes across, Rana said, he still represents an extremist group that is "the new far right in Pakistan."

The United States has long expressed irritation at Pakistan's refusal to hand over Saeed. Pakistani officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, indicated that the matter has recently died down, with the United States putting greater focus on the Haqqani terrorist network, which is based in Pakistan's tribal areas. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad would not comment on Saeed.

After his studies in Boston, Masood joined the suburban Islamic center, where he inherited a fractious congregation of 3,000 Muslims of various nations and beliefs — Sunnis and Shiites, liberals and hard-liners.

He is remembered particularly fondly in the Jewish community: Once, when Nazi swastikas were painted on a local temple, the imam and members of his mosque helped remove them.

Masood also introduced a course for interested locals called Islam 101. He said he converted hundreds of people to the faith.

In October 2006, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan coincided with the Jewish High Holy Days. Members of Starr's synagogue and Masood's mosque came together for prayers and the breaking of the Muslims' daylight-hours fast.

"It was a beautiful moment," the rabbi recalled.

Six weeks later, Masood found himself in jail, caught up in an eight-state dragnet in which the federal government accused him and 32 others of immigration-law violations.

In the early 1990s, it turned out, Masood had violated the terms of his student visa because he had not returned to his native country for two years as required. And, while pursuing permanent residency, he had lied on documents by saying that he had.

Masood fought the charges, determined to remain in Sharon, but finally admitted to them. Facing certain deportation, he left the country the day after entering a plea deal.

During questioning, Masood said, federal agents attempted to draw links between him and his older brother. He said they had no relationship and didn't communicate.

"Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-i-Taiba formed in my absence," Masood said. "I read about them in the newspaper."

The former U.S. attorney in Boston, Michael Sullivan, said the case against Masood was rooted in visa fraud and nothing more. "It was not an investigation opened up because of guilt by association," he said.

Masood is convinced that he will never be allowed to return to the United States, where his wife and five children who were born in Pakistan are fighting deportation. (His three other children are U.S. citizens.)

"Even if they allowed me, they would always suspect me as" — he curves his fingers to form air quotes — " 'a terrorist,' as 'an extremist,' 'brother of Hafiz Saeed.' "

Today, besides heading his brother's media wing, he runs a separate mosque and religious school. He isn't paid, he said, although the congregation provides him a home. He supports himself through a small embroidery business.

"I have a very humble car," he said — a 10-year-old Toyota Corolla.

He took a second wife, as is permissible under Islam, and has since had another son, who is 2. "I started my family from scratch again," he said.

William Joyce, who formerly represented Masood and his family, said the case's outcome left the imam with few options. "He was sent back with no particular way to survive," Joyce said.

The lawyer speculated that that might have driven Masood to begin working with his brother.

But Masood cited a different reason. "I thought to myself: I cannot have again as good a life as I had in America," he said. "So what is left to me is only the hereafter. So the rest of my life is used for service to people. Maybe I will earn something from God."

The muezzin gave the call for late-afternoon prayer, and the men of Jamaat-ud-Dawa began to filter back to the mosque. Inside, a few hours earlier, Saeed had delivered a trademark sermon. He assured his listeners: "The ultimate end of the United States and the West is near, and Islam will completely dominate the lands of the world."

He denounced the U.S. "trick of interfaith harmony."

And he said: "We know that the Jews are behind all these conspiracies."

The muezzin's call faded. Masood excused himself politely and went to pray.

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game