by Tahir Mustafa (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 1, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1439)
Western-backed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the civilian equivalent of terrorist groups like Da‘ish and al-Qaeda. They perform the same function in civil society as terrorist outfits do on the military front for Western interests.
Not surprisingly, they are presented in the Western media as groups dedicated to serving the poor and downtrodden. Some NGOs do perform good work, even admirable work, but such groups can be counted on one’s fingers. The vast majority of NGOs are anything but do-gooders. Behind their civilian do-gooders’ image, they serve other peoples’ nefarious agendas.
The White Helmets in Syria immediately come to mind. Established by a former British Special Forces operative, James Le Mesurier, it has been projected as a group of dedicated individuals operating under very difficult circumstances in Syria’s war trying to save civilian lives. A short documentary was also prepared in 2016 about the group’s “heroic activities” that won an Oscar!
Its image of white knights in shining armor desperately trying to save civilians is so far from the truth that those with even limited knowledge of ground realities in Syria find it laughable. White Helmet operatives are fully armed; they have often been photographed standing atop dead Syrian soldiers and have deliberately spread scandalous allegations to advance the West’s nefarious propaganda against the government of Syria.
On the other side we can cite the example of the Pakistani welfare organization, Edhi Foundation (named after its late founder, Abdul Sattar Edhi who died in 2016). He was a very humble person who dedicated his life to serving people from all backgrounds above sectarian, religious or other considerations. The Edhi Foundation gained global fame for its service to humanity. The foundation won the Lenon Peace Prize but the Western world paid little attention to his admirable work because it did not advance their agenda.
On his wedding night, Edhi Sahib (as he was popularly known) was notified that there was an accident resulting in casualties. With his bride Bilquis’ consent, he rushed to the accident scene to help the injured. How many people would be willing to rush to help others on their wedding night? His family has continued such service since Edhi Sahib’s death on July 8, 2016.
Unlike many other NGOs, Edhi Foundation was not established with foreign funds or backing. Its operations have been sustained by donations from ordinary people mainly in Pakistan but also abroad. People had total faith in Edhi Sahib because he was extremely humble in his demeanor. They willingly provided him funds, large and small, and his organization grew rapidly. Even today, Edhi ambulances are the first to arrive on the scene whenever a disaster strikes anywhere.
Beyond the genuine NGOs (Edhi Foundation, etc.) the mushrooming of NGOs especially in the Muslim world occurred in the 1980s. This can be linked to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resistance it sparked. Since the US and other Western countries were actively involved in undermining the Soviet Union seeing the Afghan resistance as a golden opportunity for their agenda, they all backed the Afghan mujahidin (freedom fighters).
Naturally, the war caused a massive refugee problem resulting in millions fleeing to Pakistan and Iran. This in turn gave rise to such problems as housing, healthcare, and education. Within Pakistan and Iran, a number of social and welfare organizations emerged to help the refugees. While Iran kept all foreign interference out, in Pakistan, this unfortunately was not the case. Western-backed NGOs, whose primary function was not so much to help the affected people but to advance the West’s agenda, came out of the woodwork.
Let us consider the example of one NGO to illustrate the point: the Mountain People of Pakistan. This group comprised mainly women of the society’s elite with their manicured hair and heavy makeup as well as Gucci shoes. They held meetings in five-star hotels in major cities attended by Western diplomats and media representatives. They talked about “saving” the mountain people and their culture and sought funds for such work.
They were lavishly rewarded. The only problem was that these ladies — and some men — had never ventured into the mountains to see the plight of the people there. This NGO’s fraud was exposed in October 2005 when northern Pakistan was struck by a massive earthquake. Thousands of people perished; many others were injured. Millions of dollars worth of infrastructure was destroyed.
The only NGOs that offered immediate help were local ones that had never received or sought funding from outside sources. The Western media vilified such NGOs as being controlled by “Islamic fundamentalists” deliberately ignoring the fact that helping people in need is a fundamental precept of Islam. They conveniently ignored the role — or non-role — of their manufactured NGO of the “Mountain People.” The earthquake of 2005 exposed the fraud of this Western-backed NGO. There are many others involved in similar fraud.
If one looks at the list of foreign NGOs operating in Pakistan one finds a large number of them are US-based. Further, they claim to be working in the field of education, healthcare, and nutrition. Gender “equality” is another of their favorite themes.
In 2015, the Pakistani government banned all foreign NGOs accusing them of working against the interests of the country. This included Save the Children. Ordinarily, one would not associate anything sinister with an organization promoting the welfare of children but that is how Western regimes operate. They adopt innocent sounding names for NGOs and through them advance their nefarious agendas.
Let us consider two other US-based NGOs: “Action Against Hunger, USA” and “American Refugee Committee International, USA”. The former’s stated mission is to fight poverty and famine worldwide while the latter says it helps displaced people/refugees. While both NGOs’ stated missions are noble, one is constrained to ask why they do not provide such assistance to people in the US, for instance? There are more than 40 million Americans living in poverty; some 44 million children are without healthcare. Are they not worthy of support?
Further, one must bear in mind that American policies are directly responsible for creating mass poverty and hunger as well as the largest number of refugees in the world. Perhaps efforts should be directed at preventing the US from causing these problems through its endless wars of aggression in other parts of the world, especially the Muslim East (aka Middle East) and south Asia. Organizations that speak out against America’s wars are vilified and targeted.
That is where the root of the problem lies. Western regimes cause massive dislocations through unfair trade practices and suffering by waging wars on other countries but their NGOs rush to offer “relief.” This is done to project the West’s non-existent virtues such as compassion and care for the suffering humanity. Would it not be better to stop creating such problems in the first place?
The most cynical use of NGOs/relief organizations occurred in January 1991. Canada had joined the US war on Iraq. Tens of thousands of people were killed; many more were injured. At a time when Canadian forces were busy killing and maiming Iraqi civilians, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) announced that it would provide matching funds to Canadian relief organizations providing help to Iraqi civilians. Unfortunately, many Muslim relief organizations became willing tools in this cynical game.
It is however, in the field of education that the most sinister policy is at work. Education is a neglected field in much of the Muslim world barring such countries as Islamic Iran and perhaps Turkey. Western NGOs in conjunction with Western-backed local NGOs claim to offer help in the field of education. A closer look reveals that it is not education per se but the Westernization of education that is at work. Western “values” of secularism and neoliberalism are peddled to undermine traditionally Islamic societies. Implantation of such ideas facilitates the penetration of Muslim societies and makes them soft targets for Western economic and political exploitation.
In societies such as Islamic Iran where Western NGOs cannot operate directly, other underhanded means are utilized. In every society one can find some individuals who are opposed to the prevailing system. Such individuals are invited to conferences in Western capitals. Intelligence agents posing as benign academics then try and recruit such individuals for their nefarious agenda.
There is a lot more to the Western NGOs’ benevolent work than meets the eye. People, especially Muslims, ought to be very wary of such “do-gooders in sheep’s clothing.”