Who is Abu Zarr al-Burmi?

by Florian Flade

Abu Zarr al-Burmi has been around for a while now even though there has not been an official introduction to the audience – the spiritual leader of the Waziristan-bases terrorist group „Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan“ (IMU).

The middle-aged cleric wearing glasses and spotting shoulder-long hair, is featured in several IMU video and audio tapes including the last two video releases in Urdu and Burmese language a short while ago.

In Pakistan the voice of Abu Zarr al-Burmi is a known one to those familiar with a Urdu-language recording featuring a debate by the Jihadi cleric and a Pakistani military official. The IMU mufti declares himself to be part of the Tehrik e-Taliban (TTP) and a representative of the Uzbek and Tajik Muhajiroun (foreign militants) stationed in the tribal areas of Waziristan.

Though unconfirmed Abu Zarr al-Burmi claims to have worked as a teacher at the „Al-Farooq Islamic University“ in Karachi. One of his students was Qari Hussain, the infamous Pakistani Taliban trainer of teenage suicide bombers. „Qari Hussain Ahmad Mahmoud was one of my students“, al-Burmi says. When the Pakistani military started to raid and bomb places in Waziristan in 2004 both Qari Hussain and Abu Zarr left Karachi to join the Mujahidin in the tribal region.“He gave up learning and I gave up teaching“, al-Burmi remembers that time.

Apparently both men joined the Tehrik e-Taliban in the first place. Al-Burmi, a Pakistani national of Burmese ancestry, later became the chief Shariah judge and Mufti of the „Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan“ (IMU).

Today the Jihadi cleric seems to be actively preaching in the Waziristan mosques, calling locals to join the Mujahidin in their fight against the Pakistani government. Jihad against the Pakistani states, its military and politicians is a „individual duty“, Abu Zarr says in his sermons, also calling Pakistan´s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah a „kafir“.

According to his own video messages Abu Zarr al-Burmi is keen on establishing a Shariah state not only in Pakistan but worldwide. In a German-language video release by IMU for example he talks about the historic region of Al-Hind. „At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, nine countries were part of Al-Hind“, al-Burmi says, „Sri Lanka, Maledives, Pakistan, Nepal, Kashmir, Bhutan, Baharat, Burma and Bangladesh.“ From Al-Burmi´s understanding these countries must be islamized again and must join to form a Islamic caliphate ruled by the Shariah.

In the person of Abu Zarrr al-Burmi (also known as Abu Zarr Azzam) the IMU has found a impressive example of Jihadi globalization: a Pakistani-educated cleric of Burmese origin is preaching the idea of International Jihad to foreign fighters in Pakistan´s tribal areas in fluent Arabic and Urdu.

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