Looking at the ins and outs of Tablighi Jamaat coronavirus controversy

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    Tablighi Jamaat

    Tablighi Jamaat has become a terror name in india during the coronavirus outbreak.India is in grips of a sharp spike in coronavirus cases every other day, the current count of which has reached 16,000 when just a month back, it was in a mere hundreds. However, while the government has been trying its best to curb its further spread by imposing Lockdown 2.0 and demarcating strict boundaries across the containment zones, several blame-games have been emerging with fingers ultimately pointing towards the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic organisation that have been apparently held responsible for the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in India. What was usually bustled with religious activities with hundreds of devotees streaming in and out, has today turned into a colossal cluster of covid-19 cases ever since a religious congregation was held there in mid-March by the Muslim missionary movement.

    With that said, what exactly is this Islamic group which has been at the centre of controversy in the past few days?

    The inception of the group dates back to 1926 in Mewat, India. A Deobandi Muslim scholar Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi established the organisation with a sole purpose of reviving Islam and purify the Muslim faith. Having witnessed several people slipping into syncretism, the group has taken the onus of spreading the messages of the prophet by sending volunteers across communities. The current Emir of the organisation is Maulana Saad Kandhalvi who is the grandson of the founder.

    Notwithstanding the fact that Tablighi Jamaat has declared itself apolitical and that it refrains from violence at all costs, the group has been banned in some Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, the government of which sees its preaching as a case of extremism.

    A religious organisation set up to revive Islamic faith as followed by the Prophet, what caused it to be under the nation’s scrutiny in the recent times?

    From March 13 to 15, over 3000 followers and members of Tablighi Jamaat from India and abroad gathered at Nizamuddin Markaz Masjid, the head quarter of the group for a religious congregation. Even though the gathering was held when the nationwide lockdown was yet to be imposed, as April dawned, over 4000 reported coronavirus cases linked to the gathering at the Markaz heaved into view. Since then, cases have been rising and so have the accusations against the Jamaat, questioning as far as whether they believed if ‘their faith was more powerful than the severity of the deadly virus’, and hence the intentional ignorement.

    A birds-eye view of the case – Is Tablighi Jamaat to be solely blamed?

    Authorities of India’s Ministry of Health have even said that the doubling rate of covid-19 cases would have been much higher had they not undertaken quick actions such as keeping over 25,000 Jamaat members under quarantine. Authorities of the Jamaat stated that the even some people with travel history in coronavirus hotspot nations have not been screened. Similarly, accusations have also been made against the organisation for allegedly hiding whereabouts of coronavirus infected people.  Some has even gone as far as linking it with the recent political issues in the nation.

    However, it is worth noting that when similar congregation by the group was held in Malaysia in the month of February, it led to a massive escalation of covid-19 cases. Notwithstanding this fact, nothing was done when the mass gathering was organised in Delhi other than the mere prohibition of assembly of more than 200 people.

    While we have been going all out blaming the Islamic organisation, we can’t overlook the fact that these are sect members who travel in groups and are not aware of or don’t discuss issues other than religion. Therefore, because of lack of awareness among them regarding medical emergencies, they may have remained oblivious to the ongoing coronavirus crisis as well. Living in the most unprecedented times of our lives, the last thing we can afford to do is play the blame-games on the grounds of caste and religion. 

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