TALLINN - Security police do not see visits by members of the controversial Islamic group Jamaat Tabligh as a security threat, despite links with Al Qaeda, the press reported this week.
Raigo Haabu, police director of the national security police, told Eesti Paevaleht that at the end of 2003 the Jamaat Tabligh organization linked with Islamic radicals took an interest in Estonia. "Jamaat Tabligh is not listed as a terrorist organization, but extremist Islamic groups often use this organization to hide their real goals and recruit new members," Haabu said.
A member of the local Muslim clergy, Mufti Ildar Muhhametshin, said in his remarks to the newspaper that Jamaat Tabligh was a peaceful organization that had no ties with Al Qaeda.
"Members of Jamaat Tabligh live in a large number of countries 's the organization has its roots in Pakistan and India," he said.
Muhhametshin said the organization's members were ordinary working people who traveled the world once or twice every year while on leave from work to establish contacts and meet with local Muslims.
Jamaat Tabligh is not operating in Estonia, but some of its members have visited Estonia in recent years, he added.
Estonia has roughly 1,500 Muslims.
Members of Jamaat Tabligh, which is Arabic for "group that propagates the faith," visit mosques and campuses, calling on men to join the organization. The movement got its start in India during the final years of British colonial rule and presents itself as a non-political and non-violent movement.
The deputy head of the FBI's international anti-terrorist unit, Michael J. Helmbach, said in a New York Times article in July 2003 that Al Qaeda has used Jamaat Tabligh members as recruiters, while Spanish investigators linked some of its followers with the 2004 explosions in Madrid.
The organization has also been blacklisted by the Uzbekistan government, and a year ago eight of its members were charged with extremism in that country, the report said.