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Saudi bans Tablighi Jamaat, branded a 'gate of terrorism'

A Member of the Saudi special police unit stands guard during a military parade in Mecca on 17 September 2015 [MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP via Getty Images]
A member of the Saudi police in Saudi Arabia on 17 September 2015 [MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia has banned the Tablighi Jamaat, a transnational Islamic revivalist movement that originated in India, over concerns that it poses a "danger to society" and that it is "one of the gates of terrorism".

The move comes as the kingdom's Ministry of Islamic Affairs called upon its network of mosques to, earlier this month, use the Friday sermon to warn the faithful against the groups "misguidance, deviation and danger".

According to an announcement by the Ministry, affiliation with the Tablighi Jamaat and other partisan groups are prohibited in the Kingdom.

The Sunni missionary movement, however, insists it is a religious and not a political group, with some 400 million followers worldwide. The UK spokesman for a group affiliated with the Tablighi Jamaat, Sameeruddin Qasmi, said in a video message that "It is a big allegation on the Tabligi Jamaat. It has no connection with terrorism. Tablighi Jamaat is the group that stops terrorism, condemns terrorism and disowns terrorism."

"We don't allow anyone to speak against any religion, community and country. We talk only for five pillars of Islam; none of our men have ever been found involved in any terrorist activities," he said.

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The Islamic seminary, Darool Uloom Deoband, in India, yesterday voiced its disapproval of the Saudi authorities' ban, a statement by the rector, Maulana Abdul Qasim Nomani, said that the accusations were baseless and that the movement was only concerned with spreading the deen (faith).

News of the ban was welcomed by India's ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, whose leader and the country's current Health Minister, Mangal Pandey, was quoted by India's ANI news agency as saying "We've seen proof of Pakistan's involvement in guarding and promoting terrorism. For world peace, we've to break all the organisations related to terrorism. So we'll welcome if any country tries to eliminate it."

The movement was thought to have been already banned in Saudi Arabia for some 30 years, although gatherings still widely persisted. Part of the reason for the ban was that it does not see eye to eye with the kingdom's own established revivalist movement, popularly referred to as Wahhabism.

The Tablighi Jamaat (Society for Spreading Faith) was founded in pre-partition India in 1926 as a religious revivalist movement calling on Muslims to return to a pure form of Sunni Islam; most of its adherents follow the Hanafi School of jurisprudence.

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