The hullabaloo about tableeghi jama’at (TJ) By Amjed Jaaved

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After attending the gathering, they `spread out to other parts of India such as Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh, creating a web of close contacts that now threatens to create an explosion of cases in the country’.

As such, India sealed the mosque, and booked them, including chief priest Maulana Saad, under criminal laws and unleashed a witch hunt to catch those who escaped the dragnet. Seven persons reportedly died of the disease, and as many as 24 detainees tested coronavirus.

One attendee from disputed Jammu and Kashmir died in the mosque. His death was termed martyrdom.

India’s view: `Islamic proselytizers appear to have worked around the scrutiny by hiding the real purpose of their travel to India, blindsiding Indian missions abroad’. And, `they operate in grey areas and their preaching can be used to radicalise youth in the name of Islam’. They cause

`Environmental damage by filing the Yamuna and Ganga with “religious waste” or turning the densely populated and congested Nizamuddin Basti into a “Covid-19 hot spot” for the sake of an Islamic gathering’. A newspaper asked, `But if this isn’t plain stupidity in the name of Allah, then what is? Contamination, from Assam to Telangana to the Andamans.

Media allegations: The New York Times reported that the participants in the 16,000-strong gathering [Malaysia] of the world’s biggest Islamic missionary movement had spread the coronavirus to half a dozen nations, creating the “largest known viral vector in Southeast Asia”. “More than 620 people connected to the four-day conclave have tested positive in Malaysia, prompting the country to seal its borders until the end of the month. Most of the 73 coronavirus cases in Brunei are tied to the gathering, as are 10 cases in Thailand”.

On 18 March, Al Jazeera, quoting Malaysian Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, reported that only half of the Malaysian participants who attended have come forward for tests, raising fears that the outbreak from the mosque could be more far-reaching.
Even in Pakistan, 27 members of Tablighi Jama’at, out of the 35 screened at their headquarters in Raiwind, tested positive for coronavirus.

The organisation has been described as “a free-floating religious movement with minimal dependence on hierarchy, leadership positions, and decision-making procedures. Controversies: However, due to its orthodox nature, the sect has been criticised for being retrogressive.

Women are always burqua-clad and the organisation has been accused of keeping women ‘strictly subservient and second string.’
Associated with terror? In France, according to an article, as many as 80% per cent of the Islamist extremists have come from Tablighi ranks, prompting French intelligence officers to call Tablighi Jamaat the ‘antechamber of fundamentalism.’ They have also been accused of molding terrorists who have moved to larger terror groups.

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Famous members of the organisation include Pakistan’s three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif father and India’s president Dr Zakir Hussain.

Seven deaths have been linked to the religious gathering at “Markaz Nizamuddin”, the Delhi headquarters of the Tablighi Jama’at, and 24 cases have been confirmed.

On the face of it, TJ’s six principles suggest Islamic piety in its extreme. But that is merely its cosmetic exterior, inviting the innocent and idealistic young Muslims into an ideological line that ultimately turns them as terrorists. The less known and dangerous side of the century-old TJ began unfolding the world over since 2001, but not in India.

Dr. Farhan Zahid, in his analysis titled “Tablighi Jamaat and its links with terrorism” [Foreign Analysis March 2015 Centre Francais de Reserche Sur le Renseignement] descries TJ as `nursery and gateway to terror’. He alleges, perhaps without sufficient corroborative evidence,“TJ is another system driver and integral element of Islamist Violent Non-State Actors’ internal dynamics; in many cases it has acted as nursery for indoctrinating Islamist terrorists,” writes Dr Farhan Zahid, a Pakistani counter-terrorism and security expert, in his analysis titled “Tablighi Jamaat and its links with terrorism” [Foreign Analysis March 2015 Centre Francais de Reserche Sur le Renseignement]. Dr Farhan says, TJ “in a way plays the role of recruiter and sympathiser [for terrorism]. TJ’s congregation allows radical elements worldwide to meet and discuss violent activities and provide them with the best opportunity to coordinate”. Adding “many of its followers have dual and overlapping membership with jihadist groups”, Dr Farhan cites references and says “TJ has now been considered as a ‘gateway to terrorism’.

Dr Farhan erects his views on TJ’s `terror record in Europe, US’. He says since 2001, traces of links have been found between TJ and Islamists involved in acts of terror. Shoe bomber Richard Reid who attempted a trans-Atlantic airline bombing [2001], Jose Padilla who tried dirty bomb manufacturing [2002] in New York city, Barcelona terror plot [2008] and the arrest of American Taliban John Walker in Afghanistan [2001] were all linked to TJ. Its French Muslim recruits were found involved in planning attacks by the Portland Seven and the Lackawanna Six in the US.

”During the 1980s and 1990s, TJ became the recruiter of Islamist radicals for the Afghan war. Dr Farhan points out that Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami [HuJI] was formed by former TJ members Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Fazal ur Rahman Kalil along with others.
From the HuJI platform emerged other jihadist outfits – Harkat-ul-Mujhahideen [HuM] Jaish-e-Mohammed [JeM], Sipah-e-Sahaba [SSP] and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ]. All of them stand declared as terror outfits.

In his analysis titled “Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad’s stealthy Legions” in Middle East Quarterly [Jan 8, 2016] Alex Alexiev writes that as 80 per cent of Islamist extremists have come from Tablighi ranks and the French intelligence calls TJ the ‘antechamber of fundamentalism’.

In his investigative story titled “French Islamic group offers rich soil for militancy’ in The New York Times [April 29, 2005] Craig Smith lists Zacarias Moussaoui [charged in the US 9/11 terror]; Herve Djamel Loiseau, who died fleeing the 2001 American bombardment of Tora Bora in Afghanistan; Djamel Beghal, an admitted Al-Qaeda member, who was convicted in 2005 for plotting to blow up the US Embassy in Paris, as TJ terror activists of French origin. Freth Burton and Scott Stewart, writing in an analysis titled “Tablighi Jamaat: An Indirect Line to Terrorism” in the Stratfor Global Intelligence Security Weekly, say that 12 out of the 14 men arrested in a pre-emptive raid on a mosque in Barcelona for plotting to attack targets belonged to TJ, adding that TJ’s name figured in the 2005 London underground bombings in which 52 people died and also in the attempted bombings in London, Glasgow and Scotland. Assistant FBI Director [US] Michael Heimbach says that TJ has significant presence in the US, and Al-Qaeda was found to have recruited TJ adherents [New York Post Dec 27, 2015]

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