Tablighi Jamaat around the world: Massive Tablighi Jamaat gatherings in Asia spawn coronavirus groups | World News
The Sunni Muslim missionary group Tablighi Jamaat organized the event in the city of Raiwind in Lahore in mid-March. So far, more than 2,258 people in attendance have tested positive, according to government data. The South Asian nation has around 8,418 confirmed cases and 176 deaths.
The five-day annual religious gathering, which started before the Pakistan closure was implemented, was attended by up to 70,000, including 3,000 travelers, before it was interrupted, police officer Ghazanfar Shah said by phone.
The organization is one of the largest religious movements in the world, with a presence in 150 nations, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. Estimates of its size vary widely from 12 million to 80 million, as the movement has no formal membership. Their goal is to reach out to Muslims and convince them to be more religious observers in their daily activities.
Religious groups have been linked to virus hotspots worldwide. A dark church in South Korea attracted worldwide attention after being linked to a surge in coronavirus infections that accounted for around 5,200 confirmed cases in February. Singapore later banned the local activities of the South Korean sect.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities became outbreaks of viruses in both New York and Israel after many followers, at the behest of revered rabbis, ignored orders of social estrangement that clashed with their beliefs. And in India, up to 30,000 people were placed under strict quarantine when a Sikh priest refused to isolate himself after returning from a trip to Europe. He attended events in dozens of villages and then died of Covid-19.
Governments have long struggled to deal with religious sensitivities, especially during a crisis such as a pandemic, Burzine Waghmar, a member of the Pakistan Study Center at SOAS University in London, said by phone Monday.
“There are those who are eager to get political capital out of it by claiming that they are talking about their basic fundamental worship rights,” Waghmar said. “Religion is always a sensitive issue,” he said, noting that in Pakistan those groups were a “force to be reckoned with.”
Tablighi Jamaat meetings were also at the center of an increase in infections in neighboring India. Devotees from across the country, as well as Indonesia and Malaysia, attended an event in the capital, New Delhi, which was also held in mid-March, which has so far been linked to 4,300 infections. On April 15, Delhi police said they had charged Maulana Muhammad Saad Khandalvi, the head of the Jama Tablighi Jamaat, with wrongful death for the meeting.
Also read: 30% of cases across India are linked to Jamaat event, according to government
Saad’s lawyer, Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, said he had not received any formal notification that charges had been filed, noting that there was a wave of misinformation surrounding the meeting.
“As soon as government orders began to arrive, Maulana Saad began to comply with those orders, and subsequently, during the quarantine period, issued a statement and even an audio clip that said ‘Please cooperate with government authorities. Go ahead and present yourself for examination. Don’t hide, ‘”Ayubbi said by phone on Friday.
Ayubbi said the organization had been treated unfairly: the meeting in New Delhi took place more than a week before the closure of March 25 was announced and while India’s national parliament was still only a few kilometers away.
In Malaysia, authorities linked a group of coronavirus cases to an Tablighi Jamaat event that ran from February 27 to March 1 and was attended by some 16,000 people at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur. That meeting remains the source of the largest group in Malaysia, with 1,946 confirmed cases of the country’s 5,425 infections. Subsequently, Singapore and Brunei reported cases that could be traced back to the Malaysian meeting.
Neither the Tablighi Jamaat in Malaysia nor the Sri Petaling Mosque responded to multiple phone calls and an email seeking comment.
The first wave of cases in Pakistan came from Shiite pilgrims who returned from Iran, one of the most affected nations.
Since then, about 78% of all cases come from those two religious groups, Pakistan’s junior health minister Zafar Mirza said in a televised speech last week.
Mufti Najeeb Khan, a prominent follower of Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan, who is an adviser to the Shariah of Summit Bank Ltd., said the March event was “interrupted after government instructions came to a close.” Khan added: “If there were clear instructions, the event would not have happened.”
Since then, the group has voluntarily converted many of its own places into quarantine facilities in Pakistan’s cities and towns, Khan said.
Pakistan extended its blockade until the end of April, bringing the movement restriction to about six weeks, but reopened some industries to contain economic damage and prevent more people from falling into poverty. The nation’s economic growth is expected to contract for the first time in 68 years.
Still, the government decided to reopen mosques on April 18 even though most nations keep places of worship closed. People will stay six feet away, rather than the normal practice of standing shoulder to shoulder, President Arif Alvi said in messages on Twitter.