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day after the brutal murder of the tailor in Udaipur, Rajasthan Police said that Ghouse Mohammad, one of the two accused in the case, had gone to Karachi in Pakistan in 2014 and had links with Dawat-e-Islami.

Dawat-e-Islami and terrorism

While Dawat-e-Islami claims to be a non-political and non-violent religious group inspired by Sufi tradition, and so far there’s no evidence of its direct involvement as a group in any terrorist act, this isn’t the first time the group’s name has come up in a terrorism investigation. In fact, there have been multiple incidents in the past where its followers went on to carry out terrorist attacks.

The last time Dawat-e-Islami’s name came up during an investigation into a terrorist attack was back in 2020, when a Pakistani terrorist named Zaheer Hassan Mehmood carried out a stabbing attack on September 25th outside the former headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Two people were wounded in the stabbing attack and the terrorist was arrested.

During the investigation of the attack, French authorities discovered that Zaheer claimed that his religious guide was Maulana Ilyas Qadri, the leader of Dawat-e-Islami.

At the time, Zaheer’s father said in an interview to Pakistani media said that he is “proud” of his son who has “done a great job” and he is “very happy” about the attack. He said that Zaheer “was a good son” who prayed regularly and attended Milad twice a year. His father also confirmed that he was a follower of Maulana Qadri, the leader and founder of the Dawat-e-Islami organisation. Zaheer’s father had appealed to the then government of Imran Khan as well as to other Islamic countries to help bring his son home. “He has done service in the cause of Islam and we are a Muslim country,” he was quoted as saying.

Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer, was also a follower of Dawat-e-Islami and its leader Ilyas Qadri, who declared Mumtaz Qadri a ‘ghazi’.

Ilyas Qadri has declared that “all Muslim scholars agree that a blasphemer must be killed but it is up to an Islamic government to execute the punishment. However, if a lover of the Prophet kills a blasphemer extra-judicially, as per Islamic jurisprudence, the killer is not executed”.

Qadri has also declared that “Hanafi jurists say that one who publicly eats in daylight during Ramadan should be killed. However, the culprit is to be killed by the authorities of a true Islamic state, not by ordinary Muslims.”

Following the murder of Salman Taseer, the Pakistani security apparatus rang alarm bells over the growing influence of Dawat-e-Islami and even decided to curtail the activities of the organisation in their ranks.

2016 murder of a British-Pakistani Ahmaddiya Muslim man named Asad Shah in Glasgow also produced links with Dawat-e-Islami. The murderer, a British-Pakistani Barelvi Muslim named Tanveer Ahmed, was affiliated with Dawat-e-Islami and was revealed to be an admirer of Mumtaz Qadri. Ahmed was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 27 years.

Who are Dawat-e-Islami?

Dawat-e-Islami is a Sunni Islamic organisation based in Pakistan which operates several Islamic educational institutions in Pakistan as well in others parts of the world. In addition to charity campaigning locally, Dawat-e-Islami also offers online courses in Islamic studies. The organisation also runs a television station, Madani Channel, which is very popular among followers of Barelvi movement.

Barelvi is a revivalist movement following the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence, with over 200 million followers in South Asia and in parts of Europe, America and Africa.

Dawat-e-Islami was officially founded in Karachi in September 1981 by a group of Sunni scholars, who selected Maulana Ilyas Qadri as its main leader.

Arshadul Qaudri and Islamic scholar Shah Ahmad Noorani, since 1973 head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), along with other Pakistani Sunni scholars, selected Ilyas Qadri, who was the then Punjab president of Anjuman Tulaba-ye Islm, JUP´s youth wing, as the head of Dawat-e-Islami at Dr-ul ´ulm Amjadia.

It was established initially to dilute the influence of Tablighi Jamaat.

The group claims to be non-political and non-violent and describes itself as a movement for the preaching of the Quran and Sunnah.

Ilyas Qadri cites Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (1856-1921), a preeminent Barelvi Islamic scholar who is considered to be the most highly regarded leader of the Barelvi movement, to be a singular source of guidance and inspiration in his mission.

In the early 1990s, an internal dispute caused the breakaway of a Mumbai-based group now known as Sunni Dawat-e-Islami from the larger group. The Mumbai-based Sunni Dawat-e-Islami is led by Shakir Ali Noori.

Dawat-e-Islami is operating its Madani Channel since 2009, which was initially launched with Urdu broadcasts but later three more channels in English, Arabic and Bengali were also launched. Madni Channel does not take commercial advertisements and instead runs on charity. It claims that its programs spread “the true teachings of Islam”.

The organisation claims it has spread into 194 nations through 26000+ workers, volunteers and evangelists who spread the teachings of the group. The two most significant activities of Dawat-e-Islami are Madani Qafila (missionary travel) and Naik Amal (self-assessment questionnaires). As part of Madani Qafila, the followers or volunteers travel for specific number of days to spread the group’s teachings.

The group also boasts that it has converted many non-Muslims to Islam as part of its Madani Qafila trips.

Dawat-e-Islami has been holding large Muslim gatherings not just in South Asian Muslim majority countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, where its religious message is propagated, but it has also managed to expand to Western nations like the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada. The group claims that these large events are financed with the help of generous donors.

It has also expanded to the United Kingdom, where it has so far held several events. As of December 2019, it had at least 38 properties in the United Kingdom which are used as a network of mosques, Islamic centers, schools and/or to hold religious gatherings. The group claims that over 100,000 British Muslims are in some form or the other associated with it in the UK.

Dawat-e-Islami operates around twelve religious centers in Greece, where it has also developed association with local Sufis, and around seven in Spain.

In addition to mosques, Dawat-e-Islami also operates a chain of Islamic schools called Dar-ul-Madinah, which it claims aims to improve conventional academic studies in conformity with Sharia. Dar-ul-Madinah chain of Islamic schools have campuses throughout Pakistan, according to its own website.

Dawat-e-Islami also operates Jamia-tul-Madina, a chain of Islamic universities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Mozambique and the United States of America. The Jamia-tul-Madina are also known as Faizan-e-Madina. In Bangladesh, Jamia-tul-Madina has produced Islamic scholars who have also served in the United Kingdom and helped spread Dawat-e-Islami’s teachings in Europe.

The group also operates Madrasa-tul Madina, a chain of Islamic madrassas with 3790 branches and approximately 169,000 boys and girls, who study free of charge in these institutions.

A charity organisation named Faizan Global Relief Foundation (FGRF), which claims to be an international welfare organisation dedicated to ensuring the well-being of Muslims all around the world and providing help in the event of disaster, is also operated by Dawat-e-Islami.

(Faran Jeffery is the Deputy Director of Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT), a UK-based Counter Islamist Terrorism think tank)

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