January 31, 2012: In late 2011 Sri Lanka discovered 161 people visiting on tourist visas were not tourists. Instead they were Islamic clerics come to preach to Moslems about being more devout and conservative. The 161 clerics were ordered out of the country. The illegal visitors were members of Tabligh Jamat, an 84 year old organization founded in India to prevent Moslems from being converted to Hinduism. That later evolved into its current mission.
While not an Islamic radical organization Tabligh Jamat members have long been a good source of al Qaeda recruits. That has to be put into context, as Tabligh Jamat has over 100 million members (mainly in South Asia) and al Qaeda has only a few thousand. What makes Tabligh Jamat worrisome is that it preaches the value of following the example of the Prophet Mohammed. While Tabligh Jamat is mostly interested in having its members live a virtuous life, Mohammed was also one of the preeminent conquerors of his time and an example Islamic radical and terrorist organizations love to follow.
But Tabligh Jamat is not pro-terrorist and comes from the Sufi (mystical and non-violent) branch of Islam. Although Tabligh Jamat considers itself Sunni it does not support the Islamic extremism of the Wahhabis or Salafists. Yet, many followers of Tabligh Jamat find it easy to move into the more extremist forms of Islam, even if the Tabligh Jamat organization preaches against such actions and confines its preaching to the converted, not infidels (non-Moslems).