New Delhi: India’s death toll from coronavirus crossed 100 this week, and over 4,000 cases have been reported so far. The health ministry Monday said 1,445 of these cases are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place at its Nizamuddin headquarters in Delhi in mid-March.
ThePrint spoke to some of the leading Muslim scholars of different Islamic bodies on what they make of the incident and the controversies that followed.
Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), said the narrative around the Tablighi Jamaat incident has “served to make every Muslim an enemy in the eyes of the majority”.
“Woh chahte hain har Hindu yeh soche ki sirf Musalman unhe khatra pahucha sakta hai, isliye Musalman ke saath apni doori aur nafrat ko barkarar rakho (They want all Hindus to think that only Muslims can cause them danger, so maintain your distance and hatred against them,” Madani told ThePrint.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the Modi government to stop dissemination of fake news pertaining to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, and take strict action against those spreading communal hatred and bigotry.
“Each time there was a bomb blast in the country, the home ministry would find some Muslim men to blame. These men would then rot in jail for eternity, even if they were innocent,” Madani said.
“This is a continuation of the same vilification. The government wants everyone to think that Muslims alone have brought upon this crisis to the nation.”
“It’s the misfortune of this country that even a pandemic can be reduced to a Hindu-Muslim issue,” Madani added.
The Tablighi Jamaat congregation saw the participation of over 3,000 people, including foreigners from Indonesia and Malaysia. Following the outbreak, those who attended the congregation, have been kept under quarantine in different parts of the country.
‘This isn’t the time for blame-game’
Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, said Muslim scholars going to TV debates to talk about the incident are also doing everyone a disservice.
“TV channels should be calling WHO representatives and other health experts. The Muslims who are going on TV shows aren’t helping anyone. No one made them the spokesperson of the community, they should stay at home,” Bukhari told ThePrint.
“Tablighi Jamaat should have been more careful. But this isn’t a time to point fingers and play the blame-game. It’s the time to look ahead and make everything better,” Bukhari added.
“No one is defending what the Tablighi Jamaat did,” Ejaz Aslam, general secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said.
“But to make it out to be some sort of a deliberate conspiracy against the country is downright deplorable,” he added.
“The people of Tablighi Jamaat made a grave error, but so did Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa, and so did all the leaders who continued to attend Parliament during the same period as the congregation.”
Aslam was referring to Yediyurappa attending a wedding, which had 2,000 guests on 15 March — after issuing an advisory against such gatherings.
Muslims being ‘harassed’
The scholars also argued that the incident and its coverage has led to many cases of harassment of Muslims.
“Some colonies are banning the entry of Muslims. A Muslim pregnant woman wasn’t allowed entry into a hospital. A Muslim was mocked and forced to commit suicide. All of these are nothing but cases of widespread harassment of the community,” Mahmood Madani, general secretary of another faction of the JUH, told ThePrint.
In the last few days, several such reports of harassment have emerged — of a pregnant Muslim woman’s child dying after she was denied entry by a government hospital in Rajasthan, and a Muslim man in Himachal Pradesh, who was in touch with a Tablighi Jamaat member, committing suicide after he allegedly faced social boycott by the villagers even after testing negative.
“Sooner or later, there will emerge other patients who had nothing to do with the Tablighi Jamaat. Will we see them as criminals too?” Madani asked.
‘Cooperate with the administration’
While condemning the ‘communalisation’ of the incident, the leaders said they have also asked the community members to cooperate with the administration.
“No one should see the government as their enemy. Whatever is in the public interest, it’s in the community’s interest as well,” Bukhari said. “If anyone attacks doctors, they are doing wrong for themselves and for the entire country at large.”
Mahmood Madani also said everyone should strictly follow the regulations.
“I would like to say to the members of the community that if anyone deliberately and knowingly flouts any of the advisories, then that person is a criminal,” he said.
“If in the name of worship, you will defy the guidelines in place, then you will be nothing but a criminal. So please stay at home and don’t do anything unadvisable,” he added.