Tablighi Jamaat's troublesome journey

By M Sridhar  Published on  3 April 2020 11:11 AM GMT
Tablighi Jamaats  troublesome journey

Hyderabad: Tablighi Jamaat, is now at the centre of contributing a big number of infections through its religious congregations both held at Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi, in February and March 2020. The Government of India has either failed to gauze Tablighi’s activities in Malaysia before its meetings in New Delhi commenced.

Even after noticing the activities of Tablighi, action was delayed and by the time they were evacuated from their four-floor building on March 30th night, their emissaries spread all over the states of India and add to the distribution of infection indiscriminately, either knowingly or negligently.

Origin of Tablighi

The history of activities of Tablighi Jamaat as an international movement is not clear. It was born in Mewat, Haryana in 1927 to counter activities of Arya Samaj which was performing Shuddi purification for those who return from Islam religion to which they converted during Moghul Rule. Today, TJ has active presence in 150 countries. Their proclaimed objective is proselytizing and preaching the basics of Islam and to make all Muslims to commit steadfast to fundamentals of the Islamic religion.

In his book “War for Muslim Minds, 2004”, Kepel wrote that Tabligh wants the followers must dress like the Prophet, sleep as he did on the ground on one’s right side etc, enter bathrooms leading with the left foot, but put pants on leading with the right foot. Also, do not use a fork while eating, instead use your index finger, middle finger and thumb; men shave their upper lips, but let their beards grow; their pants or robes should be above the ankle "because the prophet said letting clothes drag on the ground is a sign of arrogance"

Its international headquarters called Nizamuddin Markaz is in the Nizamuddin West district of South Delhi, from where it originally started. It has a central consultative council (Shura) with elders of the Tabligh Jamaat. They appoint the ameer (leader) of Tabligh Jamaat. The TJ is criticised for its orthodox nature and retrogressive. The women initially had no role, but, later they were allowed to meet observing complete hijab. Women are relegated to a domestic role.

Interestingly the Tablighi Jamaat adopted politically neutral position in different international and Indian issues. Barbara Metcalf, a

University of California scholar of South Asian Islam, called Tablighi Jamaat "an apolitical, silent movement of internal grassroots missionary renewal" and compares its activities to the efforts to reshape individual lives by Alcoholics Anonymous. [Barbara Metcalf, "Traditionalist Islamic Activism: Deoband, Tablighis and Talibs," Social Service Research Council, Nov. 1, 2004.]

Similar opinion is expressed by Graham Fuller, a former CIA official and expert on Islam and characterized Tablighi Jamaat as a "peaceful and apolitical preaching-to-the-people movement." (Graham Fuller, "The Future of Political Islam," Foreign Affairs, March-April 2002, p.49.)

But Dietrich Reetz says that from its inception the extremist attitudes that characterize Deobandism permeated Tablighi philosophy. They rejected modernity as antithetical to Islam, excluded women, and preached that Islam must subsume all other religions. (Dietrich Reetz, "Keeping Busy on the Path of Allah: The Self-Organization (intizam) of Tablighi Jamaat," in Daniela Bredi, ed., Islam in Contemporary South Asia (Rome: Oriente Moderno, 2004), pp. 295-305) B. Raman wrote: “Tablighi Jamaat is not a monolith: one subsection believes they should pursue jihad through conscience (jihad bin nafs) while a more

radical wing advocates jihad through the sword (jihad bin saif)”.

He also reported: “Tablighi Jamaat has long been directly involved in the sponsorship of terrorist groups ( a debatable topic) . Pakistani and Indian observers believe, for instance, that Tablighi Jamaat was instrumental in founding Harakat ul-Mujahideen. Founded at Raiwind in 1980, almost all of the Harakat ul-Mujahideen's original members were Tablighis.

Famous for the December 1998 hijacking of an Air India passenger jet and the May 8, 2002 murder of a busload of French engineers in

Karachi, Harakat members make no secret of their ties. "The two organizations together make up a truly international network of genuine jihadi Muslims," one senior Harakat ul-Mujahideen official said”. [B. Raman, "Dagestan: Focus on Pakistan's Tablighi Jamaat," South Asia Analysis Group, Sept. 15, 1999].

Driving force of terrorism

Le Monde (Paris), on January. 25, 2002 declares: The West's misreading of Tablighi Jamaat actions and motives has serious implications for the war on terrorism. Tablighi Jamaat has always adopted an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, but in the past two decades, it has radicalized to the point where it is now a driving force of Islamic extremism and a major recruiting agency for terrorist causes worldwide. For a majority of young Muslim extremists, joining Tablighi Jamaat is the first step on the road to extremism. Perhaps 80 percent of the

Islamist extremists in France come from Tablighi ranks, prompting French intelligence officers to call Tablighi Jamaat the "antechamber of

fundamentalism." (Le Monde (Paris), Jan. 25, 2002)

The US News and World Report of 2002 explained how Tablighi makes jihadists. “After joining Tablighi Jamaat groups at a local mosque or Islamic centre and doing a few local dawa (proselytism) missions, Tablighi officials invite star recruits to the Tablighi centre in Raiwind, Pakistan, for four months of additional missionary training. Representatives of terrorist organizations approach the students at the Raiwind centre and invite them to undertake military training”.

Rich soil for militancy On April 29, 2005, Craig S Smith, wrote in New York Times, ‘French Islamic group offers rich soil for militancy’. This report says: "It is definitely fertile ground for breeding terrorism," said a French intelligence official who has traced many militants' religious awakening to their membership in the movement. Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be charged in the United States in the Sept. 11 attacks, was once a Tablighi adherent in France, as was Hervé Djamel Loiseau, a young Frenchman who died fleeing the 2001 American

bombardment of Tora Bora in Afghanistan. Djamel Beghal, an Algerian-born Frenchman and confessed member of Al Qaeda who was convicted last month for plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris, was a Tablighi follower in the town of Corbeil a decade ago”.

( Disclaimer: The Author's views are personal and does not reflect that of NewsMeter's)

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