We Indians are highly opinionated people and when something happens we start expressing ourselves on Social media like we only know the real facts. In reality we have our own socio political biases which determine what we speak.
So normally now a days on any event or happening we see two types of opinions- the first one of those favouring the present dispensation in India and the other one of those who are against the present dispensation. In current Corona Kovid19 endemic it was widely reported by media that at the Markaj of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ ) at Nizamuddin, Delhi nearly 1000 Corona positive cases were found in and after that the attendees travelled across 17 states and may have infected more and more Indians. Nearly 1/3rd of Corona positive cases in India on that date were due to the Tablighis. So as the news started being broadcasted on news channels there was a deluge of angry reactions on social media. As the days passed the wise men and women on the other side of opinion makers woke up and started giving expert opinion in favour of the Tablighis. Right from declaring them innocent & noble persons to blaming the central government as usual for the behaviour of men of TJ. These opinion givers gave explanations in support of the Tablighis which I think even the Tablighis themselves did not know.
So to establish the facts and an unbiased understanding of the Tablighi’s innocence and their noble work I decided to conduct a Fact Check. For being impartial I decided to observe two rules for the fact check 1) Not to use any report of an Indian media house ( which are blamed of conducting Media Trial of Tablighis) but to check media reports & articles only from different countries from the world. 2) Not to consider media reports after the Corona out break and to consider media reports & articles from last 20 years to understand what the world thinks & what are the facts about the Tablighis. In my search I selected some News paper reports and some research reports also. Here is the summary of my fact check. For better understanding I have given the information on the origin and expansion of T.J. from various other sources at the beginning.
–The origin and objective of T.J.– T.J. is an Islamic missionary movement and it was started in India between 1920 to 1930. It is a movement or a group under Islam religion. It has originated from the Deobandi movement and it’s main objective was to urge Muslims to practise Islam as it was practised during the life time of Prophet Muhammad. “O Muslims become true Muslims” i.e. Back to basics in the matters of rituals, dress code and personal behaviour was the call given by the founder. It was founded by Muhammad Iliyas al-Kandhlawi in Mevat region of India. It works for spiritual reformation of Islam by working at grass root level. The teachings of Tabligh Jamaat are expressed in Six basic Principles- Kalimah (Declaration of faith), Salah (Prayer), Ilm-o-zikr (Knowledge), Ikraam-e-Muslim (Respect of Muslim), Ikhlas-e-Niyyat (Sincerity of intention), Dawat-o-Tableegh (Proselytizaton)). So in plain words T.J. wants all Muslims world over to live the same life the Prophet lived in the 7th century and to make Muslims do that is their main mission.
– The spread of T.J.– After the partition of India in 1947 and creation of a Muslim state Pakistan this group established it’s branch in Pakistan at Raiwind near Lahore. After the 1971 war when the separate Bangladesh came in to existence this group established it’s branch in Bangladesh and due to the situation prevalent in Bangladesh got good support base and Bangladesh became it’s largest centre followed by Pakistan. Gradually it expanded it’s base in Southwest and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Currently it is estimated to have around 2.5 crore members worldwide. As the group does not have any direct and practical economic-political-social viewpoints it was not noticed until recently by the western countries and societies, where politically active religious groups are noticed and face restrictions.
The organisation of T.J. in brief : The organisational structure of the TJ starts from small groups of 10-12 volunteers called Jamaats. These jamaats and their preaching travel missions are self funded by their respective members. Tabligh Jamaat encourages its followers to follow the pattern of spending “ten nights a month (Ashra),120 continuous days a year (Teen Chilla), and ultimately 150 days (5 Maah- Beroon) in tabligh missions. Normally a head is appointed for each jamaat who is called Ameer. The activities of these Jamaats are coordinated through centres and headquarters called Markaz. In each country they have their country headquarter and there is one country head who is called zimmedars. The International operations of TJ are conducted from the head quarter in India at Nizamuddin Markaz. They have a central consultative council (shura). The ultimate powers are with this Central Consultative Council ( Shura) and the head Ameer ( Doyen or Head ) who is appointed by Shura and elders of the T. J. Some reports suggest that there is no unanimity on appointment of some members of council and hence no Ameer appointed since 2015 after the death of earlier head but Maulana Saad has appointed himself as the chief. An annual gathering of followers, called ijtema, is summoned at headquarters of the respective countries and it continues for three days and ends with an exceptionally long prayer. Some times they also held such gathering for followers from all the countries which is called Vishwa Ijtema. One such huge gathering held few years back in Raiwind in Pakistan attracted the media attention towards TJ for the first time.
With this basic information about the TJ let us do the fact check about various charges levelled against this organisation & see what are the facts.
Question: Whether Tablighi Jamaat is only a religious organisation or a terrorist generating activity as considered by many countries?.
The claims :
- i) stratfor,com which is the worlds leading geopolitical intelligence platform declares in a report published on 23rd January 2008 that The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) name has come up before in connection with terrorism plots, including the October 2002 Portland Seven and the September 2002 Lackawanna Six cases in the United States, as well as the August 2006 plot to bomb airliners en route from London to the United States, the July 7, 2005, London Underground bombings and the July 2007 attempted bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland. Over the past several years we also have received several queries about TJ from U.S. law enforcement officials who are concerned about the group’s presence and activities in the United States. The report says that TJ is an indirect line to terrorism.
- ii) The Guardian in it’s report Dt.19th August 2006 titled –”Inside the Islamic group acused by MI5 and FBI” says that- “Thousands of young Muslim men are attending meetings in east London every week run by a fundamentalist Islamic movement believed by western intelligence agencies to be used as a fertile recruiting ground by extremists. TJ whose activities are being monitored by the security services, holds the tightly guarded meetings on an industrial estate close to the area where some of the suspects in last week’s terror raids were arrested. This week it emerged that at least seven of the 23 suspects under arrest on suspicion of involvement in the plot to blow up transatlantic airliners may have participated in Tablighi events”.
iii) A report published in jamestown.org based in Spain it is reported that- “On January 19, Spanish police arrested 14 Pakistani and Indian individuals purportedly belonging to the conservative Islamist movement Jamaat al-Tabligh (JaT) for allegedly planning to carry out suicide bomb attacks in Barcelona and other European cities. The incident has evolved into a high-profile counter-terrorism case with operational implications for European counter-terror operations and investigations. According to Spanish security sources, the suicide attacks were planned to occur in the run-up to the March 9 parliamentary elections and the March 11 anniversary of the Madrid commuter train bombings. While details about the detainees’ association with the JaT remain outstanding, Spanish and U.S. intelligence officials emphasized that the terrorist cell had ties to Pakistan’s tribal areas.
- iv) New york Times published a report on it’s website com Dt. 14th January 2003 which said- Because the tickets were not in his name,( Iyman Faris, the Ohio truck driver named last month in a terrorist plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge) Mr. Faris needed an explanation to validate his request. Investigators say he used one that other Qaeda recruits have relied on to disguise their intentions: he pretended to be a member of Tablighi Jamaat, a fraternity of travelling Muslim preachers that is well known in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. …. But since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Tablighi Jamaat, once little known outside Muslim countries, has increasingly attracted the interest of federal investigators, cropping up on the margins of at least four high-profile terrorism cases. It has been cited either as part of a cover story like Mr. Faris’s, or as a springboard into militancy, as in the case of John Walker Lindh, the American serving time for aiding the Taliban. ”We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States, and we have found that Al Qaeda used them for recruiting, now and in the past,” said Michael J. Heimbach, the deputy chief of the F.B.I.’s international terrorism section.
- v) Middle Ease Forum in it’s official website org has mentioned about the work of TJ in very clear terms. In the report titled ” Tablighi Jamaat-Jihad’s Stealthy Legions” in the chapter titled- ” Wolf in Sheep’s Clothings” it says- “The West’s misreading of Tablighi Jamaat actions and motives has serious implications for the war on terrorism. TJ 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 TJ 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.” U.S. counterterrorism officials are increasingly adopting the same attitude. “We have a significant presence of TJ in the United States,” the deputy chief of the FBI’s international terrorism section said in 2003, “and we have found that Al-Qaeda used them for recruiting now and in the past.”
” Recruitment methods for young jihadists are almost identical. After joining TJ groups at a local mosque or Islamic center and doing a few local dawa (proselytism) missions, Tablighi officials invite star recruits to the Tablighi center in Raiwind, Pakistan, for four months of additional missionary training. Representatives of terrorist organizations approach the students at the Raiwind center and invite them to undertake military training. Most agree to do so. TJ has long been directly involved in the sponsorship of terrorist groups. Pakistani and Indian observers believe, for instance, that TJ 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. More than 6,000 Tablighis have trained in Harakat ul-Mujahideen camps. Many fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s and readily joined Al-Qaeda after the Taliban defeated Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet mujahideen.”
” Another violent Tablighi Jamaat spin-off is the Harakat ul-Jihad-i Islami. Founded in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, this group has been active not only in the disputed Indian provinces of Jammu and Kashmir but also in the state of Gujarat, where TJ extremists have taken over perhaps 80 percent of the mosques previously run by the moderate Barelvi Muslims. The Tablighi movement is also very active in northern Africa where it became one of the four groups that founded the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria. Moroccan authorities are currently prosecuting sixty members of the Moroccan Tablighi offshoot Dawa wa Tabligh in connection with the May 16, 2003 terrorist attack on a Casablanca synagogue. Dutch police are investigating links between the Moroccan cells and the November 2, 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. There are many other cases of individual Tablighis committing acts of terrorism. French Tablighi members, for example, have helped organize and execute attacks not only in Paris but also at the Hotel Asni in Marrakech in 1994. Kazakh authorities expelled a number of Tablighi missionaries because they had been organizing networks advancing “extremist propaganda and recruitment.” Indian investigators suspect influential Tablighi leader, Maulana Umarji, and a group of his followers in the February 27, 2002 fire bombing of a train carrying Hindu nationalists in Gujarat, India. The incident sparked a wave of riots victimizing both Muslims and Hindus. More recently, Moroccan authorities sentenced Yusef Fikri, a Tablighi member and leader of the Moroccan terrorist organization At-Takfir wal-Hijrah, to death for his role in masterminding the May 2003 Casablanca terrorist bombings that claimed more than forty lives.”
This report is full of details about the connections the TJ has with terrorist organisations and terrorist attacks conducted by other terrorist groups. But the most relevant part of the report is about the TJ movement in USA. In has described the TJ strategy in the USA in two Chapters first titled ” A Trojan Horse for Terror in America?” and next one “Tablighi Jamaat: The Future of American Islam?” The entire report is worth reading.
vi ) The Pew Research centre a well known research centre on religion and public life in an article published on pewforum.org has made two relevant points First : -The organisation has no formal structure. The lack of centralized control means that various Tablighi missionaries operate in different ways and often improvise rather than follow a standard strategy. As a result, the movement’s impact tends to vary widely depending on the methods, intentions and inclinations of its local leaders and followers. For example, (though the official stand of the TJ is they do not get involved in socio political issues ) the Tablighi center in Barcelona has geared its efforts to the needs of the city’s immigrants of North African origin. Second :- some ( TJ members) have been accused of having ties to radical networks. This concern has been raised from time to time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. by journalists, law enforcement personnel and national security policymakers in the West who say the group’s missionary activities and loose organizational structure can be exploited by radical elements. “Shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who in 2001 tried to set off a bomb on a commercial aircraft, and John Walker Lindh, the American citizen captured by U.S. forces with Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan in 2001, both spent time in Tablighi circles.
- Other Inputs : i) According to timesnownews.com TJ has been banned in Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. ii) As mentioned in an artice in livemint, Mushirul Hasan, former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, who says that Tablighi Jamaat’s claim that it is apolitical is “very convenient.” According to him “no movement is apolitical, every movement has an objective.” Some of the suspicion against the Tablighi Jamaat also arises from the source of its funds, as no one knows how much and from where the money comes in, though members say people donate whatever they want, and the money is used in the markaz. iii) According to a report on com Dt. 22nd Jan.2012 from Sri Lanka which says 22 January 2012 Sri Lanka has reportedly ordered 161 foreign Muslim preachers to leave the country for flouting visa regulations. A senior immigration official was quoted as saying that the clerics had no right to preach in mosques because they had arrived on tourist visas.
Conclusions : From all the information cited above we arrive at following facts about TJ-
1) The TJ has it’s origins in the Deobandi movement and represents the intensification of individual reformation aspects of the original Deobandi movement.
2) Originally the establishment of TJ was a reaction to the collapse of Muslim political hegemony to the Maratha Empire and the subsequent consolidation of the British raj in India. As such behind the overt objective of Islamic revival in India there is a covert objective of creating Islamic hegemony of Muslims initially in India and now around the world.
3) TJ formally denies any affiliation in politics and fiqh (jurisprudence) & focuses instead on the Quran and Hadith. In practise the political patronage this organisation is receiving in various democratic & Muslim countries tells a different story. It states that it rejects violence as a means for evangelism. However, in practise the movement has served as a fertile breeding ground for radical Islamic militancy in numerous countries. This fact is recognised by almost all non Muslim countries around the world and also by many Muslim countries
4) TJ is an informal organisation with no formal constitution and rules and regulations known publically and it works very secretively. Due to this informal structure it is able to avoid the scrutiny of law in many countries. The source of investments & expenses of various ijtemas held in various countries or the vast real estates it has built in recent years for it’s centres (markaj) established in various countries is hardly known to others. When it announced in 2007 that it will purchase a prime land in Stratford, East London for constructing 18 Acres mosque complex on a site near the 2012 Olympic Park many questions were asked about the sources of the funds.
5) As an Islamic fundamentalist organisation it preaches allegiance only to Islam and the Prophet automatically it’s followers do not have any allegiance to the nation of their origin or residence. The followers of TJ do not have any respect for the law of the land and they are adamant on enforcing the Sharia law in that country. This creates problems to the national integrity of the country. This is root cause of radicalism and this organisation being used by various terrorist groups with or without their knowledge. In general behaviour also the followers of TJ do not cooperate with the state machinery as they do not have any affiliation with that country or that machinery and we have seen enough examples in India and Pakistan and other countries how they have behaved at the time of Kovid 19 epidemic. Though the followers of TJ demand every right as a citizen of that country they deny their responsibilities as citizens many a times. This creates many administrative and law enforcement problems for the nation they live and to the other citizens of that country. This disregard of law knowingly or unknowingly has created a biggest problem many countries when TJ members go on international travel. They travel on tourist visa and do the work of preaching. This creates a huge problem at a time when an endemic like Corona Kovid 19 grips the world.
6) The fundamentalist approach of TJ inculcated in it’s followers creates many misconceptions about modern living with scientific and technological developments. As TJ preaches them in living the life as it was in 7th Century, many of them do have many misconceptions about public behaviour and mannerisms. This becomes problematic in densely populated countries for non Muslims and it creates tension in the society.
7) As observed by the law enforcing authorities of many countries due to lack of any basic well accepted organisational rules and regulations the respective heads of the TJ in various countries take different stands and indulge in ethnic or social disputes for their personal or organisational benefits. This makes TJ an antinational organisation working against the interest of that country. Due to such situation the demand for ban on TJ grows louder every day. Hope that the organisation understands this and take corrective steps.
Disclaimer : This case study has been done only with academic and social interest. I do not have any personal opinion for or against TJ. This study is not done with any religious interests. There is no intentions to create any enmity against any community.