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Radicalisation and jihad

TJ claims it is a non-violent, non-political, pietistic organisation along the lines of the Methodist Church or Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some academics such as Prof Barbara Metcalf, now of the Center for South Asian Studies at Michigan University, support this view (see eg http://www.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/metcalf.htm).

Others such as Alex Alexiev of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy strongly dispute this (see eg http://www.meforum.org/article/686).

While TJ is not itself a terrorist organisation and the majority of individual followers are peaceful it is clear that personal pietism is not the full story. The organisation’s blanket claims are certainly open to challenge:

  1. TJ’s thin, simplistic, them-and-us form of Islam can lead easily to a radicalised intolerant Islamic worldview that is socially divisive, isolating and dangerous. French intelligence services have referred to TJ as “an antechamber of fundamentalism” (Observer, 24 September 2006).
  2. The Tablighi Nisab manual teaches a hostile Islamic supremacism: “Allah has given assurances that true believers will always dominate over non-believers... they are destined to be masters of each and everything on this earth” (Book 7).
  3. TJ has never renounced jihad and is not in principle opposed to religious violence as the group gives approval to both jihad and martyrdom. The founder’s Six Points of Tabligh teaches that “being killed in a battle waged in the Way of Allah (is one of the) most dignified actions in the sight of Allah.” (Muhammad Ilyas, tr. Sadruddin Amir Ansari July 1967, Nizamuddin, p 35)
  4. India-based TJ expert Yoginder Sikand argues that the organisation certainly has a political vision. He, like Alexiev, also points out the number of senior Pakistani and Bangladeshi politicians who have been TJ activists. “The (view) that the TJ has nothing whatever to do with politics is completely misplaced, being based on a superficial reading of statements of Tablighi leaders” (The Tablighi Jama’at and Politics, The Muslim World, Vol 96, January 2006, p 193).
  5. The FBI has pointed out that TJ, with its narrow radical Islam, has become a recruiting ground for militant groups (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F06E5D7163CF937A25754C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6839625/). Others attest to the strong recruitment links between TJ and specific banned jihadi organisations such as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (Rahan; Sikand) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (Sikand; Sardar). Even the BBC has spotted the active politico-religious association of TJ with the Pakistani Taleban (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4751499.stm).
  6. Two of the 2005 London 7/7 bombers, the Ahmed brothers in the June 2007 Glasgow Airport car bomb attack (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/jul/07/terrorism.scotland), and a number of the young men arrested and/or recently convicted in connection with the August 2006 Atlantic airline terror plot (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/aug/18/terrorism.world) have been publicly linked to TJ. The group counters these links by arguing that every movement has its bad apples. But when the three most recent planned terrorist atrocities on UK soil have all involved TJ people, it is reasonable to question whether TJ can insist on their ‘bad apple’ disclaimer. If what TJ teaches leads to this perspective, their bad apple claim is clearly invalid.

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