Religion has often caused harm to the world and humanity as a whole, whether in the form of environmental damage by filing the Yamuna and Ganga with ‘religious waste’ or turning the densely populated and congested Nizamuddin Basti into a Covid-19 hot spot for the sake of an Islamic gathering.
Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic reformist group, had a large gathering of more than 3,000 people on 13 March in Nizamuddin with foreign nationals from Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, and Malaysia, a hot spot for the deadly virus. Infact, the Jamaat has also been held responsible for having spread the virus to half a dozen nations in its February gathering in Malaysia.
Now, people across India who had participated in the Islamic congregation are testing positive for Covid-19 — from as far as Andaman and Nicobar Islands — and 10 have already died, including the Jamaat’s Kashmir head. All of this happened because of an annual Islamic gathering.
I am not encouraging Islamophobia, it will always be a prejudice that needs vehement opposition. But if this isn’t plain stupidity in the name of Allah, then what is?
Whether India had implemented strict travel restrictions by 13 March or not isn’t the question here, the point is why gather in such huge numbers, with ‘red’ travel history for the sake of preaching religion? People from the gathering continued living in the area even after 13 March. Their orthodox movement has exposed all of us to a greater risk of contamination, from Assam to Telangana to the Andamans. And we can’t justify it by saying that other religions had also kept their doors open for a long time. All doors should have been shut.
Ignorance in Islam’s name
Unfortunately, even amid this global crisis, some people are trying to veil the Jamaat’s irresponsibility by bringing up a 13 March PTI report about government officials having still not declared coronavirus a public health emergency and hence the Sunni Muslim group didn’t violate any norms.
Here is a fact-check; Delhi government on 13 March prohibited any gathering of more than 200 people under the Epidemic Diseases Act. Moreover, they also directed people coming from any Covid-19 affected country to self-isolate. Members of the Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin violated both these directions.
Some have also argued that the Janata curfew was imposed a week later on 22 March and not during the Jamaat’s celebrations, which is also completely ridiculous. The question here is of moral and social responsibility along with the Delhi government’s order, which prohibited religious gatherings of over 50 people from 16 March. Covid-19 had already created chaos in the world by 13 March and the Jamaat made its contribution to it, not once, but twice.
Some others are now comparing this gathering with the exodus of migrant workers in the national capital. What these people fail to understand is that those workers had to walk home together because there was no other option. No one chooses to walk hundreds of kilometres with their children and no food if they have another option. But what Tablighi Jamaat did was sheer negligence and idiocy.
This outdated and orthodox movement has committed a crime that has put several others at the risk of coronavirus infection. No one knows the whereabouts of those 3000 people and who they have contacted in the last 16 days. Sadly, all of this was done in the name of Islam.
Liberals are missing
Surprisingly, India’s ‘liberals’ including actors, journalists and authors are quiet on this. They have only tried to whitewash the Jamaat’s doing by pointing out the loopholes of the government and the administration. This entire fiasco, caused solely for the purpose of preaching Islam, does not seem to be a matter of concern for them. Ironically, if such irresponsibility was shown by some other religious group in the country, the same liberals would have ridiculed it, like they did for Yogi Adityanath’s Ayodhya celebrations.
We need to understand that speaking against a wrong committed by an orthodox religious group from a particular religious community doesn’t mean you’re stereotyping them. Of course, Muslims in India have always been discriminated and faced Islamophobia. However, this does not mean that you should not speak up against crimes committed by a group of orthodox people.
Not speaking up against this gross violation of human safety exposes your hollowness and your lack of balance. More so, it throws light on why there will never truly be an Indian liberal.
Speak against Jamaat, not ISIS
When ISIS attacked a Gurdwara in Kabul last week, there were some who said they were ashamed of the crimes of this terrorist organisation in the name of Islam. There were others who not only tried defending Islam in the wake of the Islamic state’s activities but also tried their best to establish the difference between ISIS and Islam.
The fact is ISIS is a global terrorist outfit that kills people, and rapes women. It has much less to do with Islam than it has to do with power. But Tablighi Jamaat should force us to think of our religious practices in every day life.
This congregation is probably the worst thing that these 3,000 Muslims could have ever inflicted on humanity in the name of preaching Islam. Ultimately, the brokers of Islam have added to this coronavirus mess.
Views are personal.