Tablighi Jamaat ijtima (gathering) in Pakistan.
In a lengthy story on the unfortunate situation facing the imam at Sefton Mosque, Natalie O'Brien (senior editor for The Oz) cites the work of Dr Jan Ali, who completed his PhD on the topic of "Islamic revivalism: a study of the Tablighi Jamaat (let's call them "TJ" for short) in Sydney" at the University of New South Wales in 2006.
You can download and read the entire 325-page thesis here. Dr Ali has also authored a paper for the April 2003 edition of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs which can be found here. I'll certainly be going through the thesis as it is of direct interest to my own research toward the "Iremonger" book.
TJ played an important role in my own religious development. It disturbs me that this movement is being described as a recruiting ground for terrorism. I can imagine that the TJ's open doors policy of allowing just about any Muslim to join them can make them an effective cover for any aspiring terrorist. But to describe them as a "conduit" is certainly over-the-top.
English researcher Yahya Birt has reviewed a collection of essays on the TJ which can be found here.
The TJ are an outgrowth of the Deoband movement of Muslim religious education in India. Deoband is the name of a village in the Saharanpur district of the Utter Pradesh (UP) state in northern India. South Asian Sunni Islam is unique in that it is the subject of a divide between Deobandi and Barelwi schools. The rivalry between these two competing schools of thought is often at the heart of disputes between South Asian Muslims and the management of religious institutions in South Asian diaspora communities.
One American scholar who has spent much time with the TJ leadership in South Asia is Professor Barbara D Metcalf. Professor Metcalf has written extensively on the TJ and their relationship with the Deoband school. Professor Metcalf is fluent in Urdu and has also completed an excellent partial translation of Behishti Zewar, a book of Islamic sacred law written especially for women by a Deobandi jurist named Ashraf Ali Thanawi.
Words © Irfan Yusuf 2008