Saudi Arabia’s decision to ban the Tablighi Jamaat has sent ripples across South Asia. Over the past two weeks, news of Saudi Arabia banning the Islamic religious revivalist movement the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) and branding it a terrorist group has elicited much interest in the media across South Asia, according to The European Foundation for South Asian Studies.
Saudi religious leaders have for long viewed the TJ as “deviants”. Part of the reason for the ban was that the TJ does not see eye to eye with the kingdom’s own established revivalist movement, popularly referred to as Wahhabism. Established in 1926 by the Sufi Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi, of Chisti Tariqa, in the Mewat region of India, it began as an offshoot of the Deobandi movement.
The reaction of countries such as Pakistan, which condemned the Saudi decision to ban the TJ, and of several Muslim religious bodies and personalities across the sub-continent, that also took umbrage to it, left little doubt that the ban was on none other than the TJ, according to the European Foundation for South Asian Studies. Meanwhile, the Saudi ban threatens to adversely impact the TJ’s sizeable presence and its activities in South Asia.
Further, the Pew Research Center, for example, drew attention to the fact that some TJ followers have been accused of having ties to radical networks. On the other hand, Pakistan was quick to react to the Saudi ban, and it adopted a rather confrontational tone towards a patron nation that it is still working on mending frayed relations with.
Also, the assembly of the Pakistani province of Punjab, in which Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party is in majority, unanimously adopted a resolution calling the TJ a force for good. The merits or otherwise of the Saudi decision notwithstanding, the ban will certainly impact upon the TJ’s activities in South Asia. In addition to the Saudi regime’s dislike of the TJ as brought out afore, the winds of change that are flowing through the Saudi Kingdom may also have played their part in the decision being taken, according to the European Foundation for South Asian Studies.