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Strategies of adaption and dissociation
Islamic missionary groups from South Asia in the European diaspora – the Tablighi Jama’at and the Da’wat-i Islami

Islamic Training Institutes in Germany
links to Training Institutes in the Middle East and Europe

Between participation and disengagement
The Muslim minority and its schools in South Africa and Europe

Islamism, the Reform of Islam, and Civil Religion in France

„Pioneers of 'Euro-Islam'“?
The role of Muslim women in the Milli Görüs. Crossed views: Germany-Turkey

The Ahmadiya in Germany
Areas of conflict between Islamic identity and secular embedment


Strategies of Adaption and Dissociation

Islamic Missionary Groups from South Asia in the European Diaspora – the Tablighi Jama'at and the Da'wat-e Islami

, Centre for Modern Oriental Studies
, Centre for Modern Oriental Studies

Results of the Field Study conducted by PD Dr. Dietrich Reetz

Results of the Field Study conducted by Thomas Gugler

Zentrum der Tablīghī Jamā'at in Dewsbury, GB

PD Dr. Dietrich Reetz and Thomas K. Gugler focus on the missionary activities of the South Asian Islamic groups Tablighi Jama´at (TJ) and Da´wat-e Islami (DI) in several European countries. Their topic is the formation and discourses of these movements as well as their strategies of adaption and dissociation. While these missionary movements raise questions about the attitude of secular Muslims in Europe, they also shape the emerging composite European identity. Both movements endeavour to motivate Muslims to re-focus on their societies of origin. At the same time these groups are obliged to adapt to the local situation in Europe, where they hope to create conditions that enable Muslims to live their lives in consonance with Islam.

Both movements want Muslims to practice Islam more broadly, based on the custom of the founder generation of Islam, the Sunnah. It is their intention to strengthen religious beliefs and reinforce the observance of religious practice. As a rule, they do not seek to convert non-Muslims. Both movements have extended their activities beyond their countries of origin and established a significant presence in Western Europe with their own networks. They set up regional centres (marakaz), where permanent local representatives coordinate their activities. These centres are occasionally attached to mosques and/or religious schools (madrasas), and grass roots activities are mainly conducted by groups of lay preachers.

This case study seeks to explore how these movements adapt their missionary endeavour to the European area of operation and the impact their activities may have there. Via field and literature studies it aims to evaluate the connections of these movements to Pakistan and India and to observe the structure and dynamics of their global activism. Observing their translocal connections between Europe and South Asia is crucial to grasping the nature of their missionary work, which crosses geographical, political and cultural borders effortlessly. The intention of the project is to explore whether these missionary activities will lead to a further dissociation of Muslims from their host societies in Europe or whether their more strict observance of Islamic norms will give some of them a new sense of identity and thus be conducive to greater integration.

Both groups embrace a new trend in which the understanding of the Muslim community (ummah) is no longer tied to a specific territory – indeed they claim that true Muslims constitute a minority everywhere. As they revise the concept of a physical frontier between the land of believers (Dar-ul-Islam) and non-believers (Dar-ul-Harb), they confront western secularism and rationalism among European Muslims. Young Muslims, particularly university students, are the main target group of both movements in Germany.

The movements also aim at recasting Muslim identities by emphasising certain symbols and attributes. A strict dress code that includes the traditional long white shirt and baggy trousers (shalwar qamis) of the South Asian Muslims makes them easy to identify in public. In addition, followers of the DI wear a green turban.

The activities of both movements include missionary journeys of a fixed duration in small groups, as well as weekly and annual congregations (ijtema´).

While the TJ and DI show many similarities, they represent two rival interpretations of south Asian Islam compete for influence and to have an impact within the Muslim community. The TJ emerged in 1926 and follows the purist Deobandi tradition named after an Islamic school founded in 1867 in the North Indian city of Deoband. The DI was formed in 1980 in response to TJ activities. It is more closely related to the folk religious tradition and the Sufism represented by the Barelwi tradition, named after Bareilly, a neighbouring village of Deoband where the founder of this school of thought, Ahmad Reza Khan (1856-1921), resided. This rivalry has led – at least in South Asia – to tension. The Barelwis have published several polemical pamphlets against the TJ, albeit from a pragmatic religio-sociological point of view their aims, approach and mode of operation resemble each other closely.


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