Political Islam Trends

The Tablighi Jamaat in Europe

22 Aug 2023

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IBAN: 978-9948-782-96-4

AED 15

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.