In some parts of the world, it is little more than an Islamic
religious study group.
In others, local government officials accuse it of being an extremist militant organization whose members have trained with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda
Observers say both interpretations are true of Tabliq, an international Muslim sect
whose members once included alleged shoe- bomber Richard C. Reid.
"It's a very old group that has been around for years. It has many branches around the world," Philippe Larue, international editor of the French newspaper La Provence, said through an interpreter yesterday.
In yesterday's editions, the newspaper reported that Reid, who is being held at Plymouth County House of Correction on flight interference charges, joined the group's London branch but quit because it wasn't militant enough.
"It's very difficult to have an extremist group in London because of Tony Blair's crackdown on them. It used to be paradise for them," Larue said.
Reid, also known as Tariq Raja and Abdel Rahim, may have been impressed by the record of Tabliq's more militant central African branch.
An insurgent Tabliq group, also known as the Allied Democratic Front, received training from al-Qaeda, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni charged.
"ADF was a direct creation of (Sudanese Islamic fundamentalist leader) Hassan al-Tourabi and bin Laden," Museveni said earlier this month of the rebels trying to overthrow his government.
On the Indian subcontinent, the group has been described as a Islamic missionary movement more concerned with religious than political matters.
But the Indian government has become leery of Pakistan's financial support to a Tabliq group in Myanmar (formerly Burma), The Week magazine in New Delhi reported.
"The Indian government has definite reasons to be worried. If Myanmar starts supporting Pakistani-trained military groups and offers training bases for them, the situation in the northeast could worsen," the magazine said.