'The blasts in Lanka are against our ideology.'
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com reports from Chennai.
The Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat has a three floor building in the heart of old Chennai, on Armenian street, not far from the Madras high court. It runs two mosques in Chennai and has other offices for social work.
The reception at the TNTJ head office has a display of various books on Islam. We are told the TNTJ employs writers to produce these books which the Jamaat then publishes. It also publishes two magazines in Tamil.
There is a small board which says that men and women should be seated separately.
On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, eight blasts rocked Sri Lanka, killing 290 people and wounded over 500 others in the worst terror attack in South Asia.
The Sri Lankan authorities have since named the National Tauheed Jamaat -- an extremist organisation on the island -- as responsible for the horrific acts of terror.
"We have been doing social work for 30 years and no journalist thought about writing about us and today so many of you have come here," chides TNTJ General Secretary E Mohammad.
Though he speaks about 30 years of service, the organisation was only registered 15 years ago, in 2004.
Wikipedia says the organisation was founded by P Jainulabdeen, but Mohammad says the founder was removed by the TNTJ governing body as his activities violated its principles.
Wikipedia also says the TNTJ had 300,000 members. "That information is outdated," says Mohammad, "We have 800,000 members."
Mohammad speaks about a TNTJ programme where "we teach our people to act against terrorism, we had these classes across Tamil Nadu for six months."
"The blasts in Lanka are against our ideology. They say Islamists have done it. They are naming the National Tauheed Jamaat. We don't know who they are. We have nothing to do with them," says Mohammad.
"We have a sister organisation in Lanka called the Sri Lanka Tauheed Jamaat," he adds. "It has worked with the government there. After the blasts, they collected over 100 bottles of blood for the victims."
Whenever a blast occurs in the world, he laments, Muslims are the first suspects. "This is wrong!" he emphasises. "Common Muslims are affected because of this suspicion."
The Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat runs orphanages, old age homes, helps students with their education, teaches Islam and also has 800 prayer halls across the state.
"Just because the words 'Tauheed Jamaat' is in the name of two organisations, you cannot connect them," Mohammad says. "The alphabets DMK are there both in the DMK and the AIADMK, will you say they are the same?"
Jamaat members say they do not get any funding from the government nor do they seek donations from outside the organisation, in India or abroad.
"We have many businessmen among our members who fund our activities, our 800,000 members are capable of giving us all the money we need," says Mohammad.
"Only during the Chennai floods two years ago did people from outside the organisation donate money to us saying, 'We know it will reach the people in need when we give it to you'".