Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) is again in spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The facts
of the case are as follows: during 13-15th March, there was a special program
at the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Participants for this
special program had come from more than twenty countries, with large batches
from Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. It is now confirmed that some who
attended this gathering are coronavirus positive cases. A few have even died
due to this illness. The government is currently trying to locate each and
every member which participated in the gathering and whomsoever they may have
come in contact with.
This is indeed a herculean task given the fact that most
have already gone to their homes and in the process, some of them must have
infected people who came in contact with them. At special risk are their family
members. We can only hope and pray that they remain safe. Till now, it has been
confirmed that the groups which returned to Telangana and Kashmir were
definitely carrying the virus as there are confirmed fatalities reported from
these two places. What is more worrying is that the participants also carried
the virus back to the Andamans, home to some of the most endangered tribal
communities. However, the Tablighi Jamaat is not just a pan-national but a
trans-national movement and therefore the exact spread of the virus and its
ramifications will only become clear much later.
never appreciated this movement. I think it is a big waste of time, money and
resource of the community. I have found members of this movement to be
extremely irresponsible when it comes to social and familial commitments. Their
views are inanely orthodox and they are conservative to the point of being
ridiculous. There are millions of followers of this movement in India and even
if a fraction of them show the same kind of commitment towards education or
health, the situation of Muslims would be very different from what it is today.
Also, the movement says that it eschews politics but certainly that it is not
the case. By being ‘apolitical’, the movement cuts out a significant section of
Muslims from critically engaging with present day political structures and
makes them fatalistic.
to the detriment of Muslim political empowerment in India and elsewhere but at
the same time is very functional for the ruling powers. Theirs is a worldview
where ‘real life’ starts after death. They are not concerned about anything
which concerns Muslims in this world: education, health, general well-being,
etc. It is not surprising that they are welcome the world over for their views
and activities, especially by regimes which do not want Muslims to question the
existing political order. For Indian Muslims who are already beset by social
and economic backwardness, this movement is designed to keep them in that state
for all eternity.
intense dislike of the movement, I do not believe the current media harangue
which is blaming the Tablighi Jamaat for the spread of coronavirus in India.
Uninformed about Muslim complexities, it will not take long for the very same
players to conflate the Tablighi Jamaat with all Muslims. These nincompoop
anchors and their editors do not know that the Tablighi Jamaat is only one of
the many sects within Indian Muslims. The majority of Indian Muslims do not
follow this order, rather they detest it actively.
it is not that this event organised by the Tablighi Jamaat was something new;
such events keep getting organised at the headquarters as a matter of routine.
And followers from all over the world congregate at Nizamuddin every single day
of the year. But in the current political climate when we need a scapegoat for
all our problems, it is entirely possible that all Muslims will be made the
villain for the fault of one particular group. Already there are hashtags like
#coronajihad doing the rounds; who knows in the next few days, we might
discover that this was a diabolical pre-planned conspiracy by Muslims to inject
the virus in this country. Due to the unplanned lockdown, the country in already
on the edge. Blaming Muslims in this situation is playing a very dangerous
game, one whose outcome might be very precarious for this country.
This is not
to absolve the Tablighi Jamaat of its responsibility. Certainly, by the time of
the said event, the world had become aware of the impending impact of the
virus. Since it is a transnational movement, they should have immediately
cancelled the event and advised its followers not to come to the headquarters.
Rather than doing this, they went ahead and in fact only requested the police
to escort people out after the lockdown was in effect.
certainly they have played a part in disseminating the virus and being
irresponsible, but so have a whole host of other players. It must be recalled
that during this time, there were no policy restrictions in place. People did
assemble for holy celebrations; a chief minister took oath in full public
gathering and the parliament was functioning as if there was no health
emergency in the country. According to the BBC, one Sikh religious leader might
have endangered the lives of thousands in Punjab.
similar instances of large gathering organised by other religious groups also.
But then, in a country where the very word ‘Muslim’ has become synonymous with
problem, it will only be this identity which will be negatively privileged. And
that is what is happening with the Tablighi Jamaat right now. Sooner or later
the coronavirus will be contained, but the sickness which is at the heart of
hatred against Muslims will perhaps never be contained.
Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com