A statement posted on Al-Huda’s website — and on that of its head Dr Farhat Hashmi — said that it was a “non-political, non-sectarian and non-profit organization” and that it promoted a “peaceful message” of Islam and abhorred extremism, violence and acts of terrorism.
The organization said that it does not have any links to any extremist regime. It added that Tashfeen Malik (the alleged shooter in the San Bernandino incident which left 14 dead) was seemingly “unable to understand the beautiful message of the Quran”.
It said that she studied at Al-Huda’s Multan branch “for a brief period between 2013-2014 and left without completing the Diploma course”.
The Al-Huda statement concluded by saying: “Any Muslim who is aware of the teachings of his/her religion and who adheres to the directives of the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), will never involve himself/herself in such acts, because they will invoke the anger of Allah Almighty and lead to harm and corruption on earth. May Allah (SWT) give us all true understanding of Islam.”
That said, the question whether she was radicalized while studying there is still being asked, especially by people in the US where she was living at the time of her death.
Al-Huda’s website offers lectures of its chief Dr Farhat Hashmi via Vimeo as well as YouTube. It also has a separate section for children (a sister website in fact, www.hamaraybachchay.com) and also makes available for download several of its publications. One of the pages on the site for children has a downloadable pamphlet in Urdu which gives suggestions on what children should do during their vacations.
There is also a separate section with apps developed by the organization and another one where anyone can download podcasts. The website also features a section in Hindi, ostensibly aimed towards Muslims in India.
It also has a separate website for its Al-Huda International School. In its Testimonials Section, one comment, interestingly enough, is by Dr A Q Khan, who wrote: “Extremely pleased to visit Al-Huda International School and seeing the various projects prepared by the young children. It was impressive to see them explaining all the projects nicely. All my best wishes and prayers are for the students and the teachers. May Allah bless them all.”
Al Huda has been around for over a decade and has become increasingly popular in many of Pakistan’s major cities, especially Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
In Karachi, its classes on the Holy Quran are particularly popular and it has attracted many women especially from the upper-income households and localities. In the past, institutions like the DHA Library have given the organization space to hold such classes, and in some instances, some of its affluent students or teachers have offered space in their own homes.