Tablighi Jamaat was plain stupid to keep its headquarters, Markaz, open with a large number of foreign delegates, including people from Malaysia, a hotbed of COVID-19 in South East Asia. The fact that Coronavirus spread not just in Malaysia, but other nations of the region through Tablighi Jamaat members was not a secret, unknown to people. To be fair, a Tablighi Jamaat event on 27th and 28th February in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where as many as 16,000 Tablighi Jamaat delegates came from throughout the world, proved a disaster of sorts as dozens of people got infected with COVID-19 and then took it to their respective regions.
Now it is no secret that the congregation of more than two thousand people at Nizamuddin, Delhi based headquarters of the organization has helped the killer virus to spread further in the country. Many of the people who came there - and there are thousands of people present at the headquarters at any point of time- took the virus with them in a few cases and infected their relatives and other members of the TJ in the process. Now the extent of the impact is coming to the fore.
The Union Health Ministry has said that the Coronavirus increased at alarming rate due to the Tablighi Jamaat. The ministry further said that the COVID 19 infection rate doubled in 4.1 days due to Tablighi Jamaat. Had this congregation not taken place it would have taken at least 7.4 days to double the infection. "If the Tablighi Jamaat incident had not taken place and we compare the rate of doubling - that is in how many days the cases have doubled, we will see that currently it is about 4.1 days (including Jamaat cases) and if the incident had not taken place and additional cases had not come then the doubling rate would have been around 7.4 days," Union Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said.
There is no denying the fact that the Tablighi Jamaat congregation that lasted from 12-13 of the last month and the subsequent stay of their members in their headquarters situated in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area helped the cases to go up in the country. The action is being taken against their leadership as FIRs against their leaders including their head, Maulana Saad Kandhalwi, have been filed at the behest of Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal. However, the way the media has tried to pose a picture that this was done wittingly couldn’t be farther from truth.
At a time when the entire focus should have been on how best to fight the pandemic that has killed close to seventy thousand people across the world, the Indian media gave it a communal tinge. Islamophobic content has gone up in the mainstream Indian media, especially in the electronic media.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat, an author and social activist, while talking about the current trend in the media says, “I have never trusted Indian media particularly the electronic channels who have become the biggest threat to the unity and integrity of the country. While there is no denial of fact that the event organised by Tabliqhi Jamaat in Delhi was highly irresponsible but to convert into a favorite Hindu Muslim debate is irresponsible and unethical journalism. In the past, there used to be a term for such kind of journalism as yellow journalism but now this is getting filthier day by day. It is clear that the agenda setting is done by those who want to keep the pot boiling by perpetually making Muslims villain for every evil in India so that they can reap the rich harvest as vote during the election”.
He goes on to add, “what is more disturbing is that such despicable people are allowed to abuse, threaten people while Babas are being legitimized. We demand prohibition on all forms of religious gatherings for the sake of people but selectively targeting Muslims is wrong. Also as RSS does not represent all the Hindus, so is Tagliqhi Jamaat. It does not represent even 1% of Muslims. These are redundant bodies and are only being used to defame the Indian Muslims who are law abiding citizens of the country. It is time media come out of its narrow sectarian savarna prejudices and speak for the nation and not vilify Muslims for the Corona crisis”.
What is surprising is the fact that a health scare is being magnified and being used to spread Islamophobia throughout the country. Social media is full of venomous messages against Muslims. These Islamophobes are going to the extent of demanding the extermination of the Muslims in the country.
Tablighi Jamaat that was founded in the year 1927 has its genesis in the Deobandi movement, a nationalist movement of Indian Muslim religious scholars. Tablighi Jamaat is not a missionary organization and doesn’t believe in conversion activities. Its objective is to make Muslims, Muslim and not to convert people. It has never dabbled in politics and has never been associated with anything sensational. To be fair, it is surprising that despite being a huge organization with such a massive fan following throughout the world, it doesn’t have a proper office and still functions out of a rather modest mosque in Delhi’s Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin. The organization aims for the spiritual reformation of Islam by working at the grassroots level.
Tablighi Jamaat has been hammered and criticized for a very long time for neglecting worldly issues concerning the larger Muslim community in the country. They are not known to have criticized any government action or inaction and have never come out and issued a statement criticizing governments over riots or suppression of minority riots. When every big or small organization spoke in support of the anti-CAA movement run by Muslim women across the country, the Tablighi Jamaat never spoke about it let alone extending support to the first civil liberties movement led by Muslim women in the country. They didn’t speak a word even during the Delhi riots 2020. Apparently this is not a current phenomenon when the Tablighi Jamaat kept mum on issues of importance to the community or the nation. Even during the height of Ramjanambhoomi Movement and when the Babri Masjid was demolished, they didn’t speak a word or made any noise against the demolition. The same was true during Gujarat riot 2002.
Muslims have felt betrayed by the Tablighi Jamaat for lack of activism. Despite their immense reach among almost every section of Muslims in the country, except of course among Shias and Barelwis, they never speak about education, about civil rights, about minority rights or abuse of minorities in the country. When mob lynching had become a common sight they still never spoke a word about the menace. You can call them ignorant, obscurantist or illogical, but you cannot call them anti-national, willful lawbreakers or supporters of terrorism, as many people in the media have tried to portray them.
More Columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Despite muted denials, NRC will target Muslims
Bhagwat, Madani meet: End of the maddening divide
Ahmadullah Shah: Hero whose head and body are buried
Muslim women's entry in mosques: What is the truth?
Syed is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October