The Tablighi Jamaat is a transnational Deobandi missionary movement formed in India in the early 20th century by Muhammad
Ilyas Kandhlawi to encourage Muslims to become more religiously observant in response to the perceived deterioration of moral values.
The Tabligh do not rely on a formal organizational structure, with minimal dependence on hierarchy and broad
freedom on how to run their dawah activities. The Tablighi Jamaat is widespread in South Asia and the west, but it is
impossible to know the precise number of members, not only due to its introverted institutional profile but also because there is no
formal registration process. Additionally, many of its followers are only active on a part-time basis.
The Tablighi Jamaat’s lack of control over membership and activities at its ground level, and the ease with which a volunteer can
join and leave, travel abroad and disappear can make the movement attractive to potential terrorists. Additionally, an increasing
Wahhabization of some areas of the Tablighi Jamaat may drag its activists to embrace an extremist ideology that can easily fuel
violence, something that has occurred since the mid-2000s. Several counter-terrorism investigations throughout Europe have targeted
Tablighi activists and centers. This research analyzes the nexus between the Tablighi Jamaat’s structure, ideology, modus operandi and how these characteristics
can make the Jamaat attractive to potential terrorists wishing to exploit its high degree of anonymity and the ease of transnational
travel. Two specific terror-related cases involving Tablighi activists in Spain and Italy are examined in detail.
Strategic Trends Series