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Islamic missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat may be biggest carrier of Covid-19 in South Asia
New Delhi/Islamabad, March 31 - In a strange pattern, members of Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic proselytizing group, have been found unrestrainedly preaching in large religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic restrictions in several countries in Asia, leading to hundreds of infections.
Every year in February and March, over a million Islamic preachers from around the world visit South Asian and South East Asian countries for a celebration of Islam and proselytization programmes. After the outbreak of novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan city of Hubei province of China in December, many countries imposed travel restrictions. However, Tablighi Jamaat went ahead with its pre-planned celebrations, sources in Islamabad said.
On Monday, Pakistani media reported that 36 cases of community transmission among the members of the Tableeghi Jamaat in Hyderabad, Sindh were detected. At least two deaths from the coronavirus were directly linked to Tablighi Jamaat's gathering in Raiwind.
The cases were reported from Noor Mosque, where around 200 Jamaat members were initially quarantined. Noor Mosque, the second-largest centre of the Jamaat in Sindh, was sealed off after a 19-year-old Chinese-origin member of the preaching group tested positive for Covid-19 on March 27.
They had arrived at Raiwind from Swat and then went to Hyderabad Noor Mosque for Islamic congregation. From there, they went to Sehrish Nagar for preaching of Islamic teachings and are now in Makki Mosque, Pakistan media reported.
Sources in Islamabad said thousands of Muslim preachers from about 80 countries including Palestine and Kyrgyzstan, attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet early March in Sindh. After hundreds tested positive, sources said, the congregation was called off by the government.
In India, in the first week of March, about 250 foreign nationals arrived in Nizamuddin West locality of New Delhi to attend a religious congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat. The gathering was attended by over 1,700 to 1,800 people from both India and abroad. Many foreign members, traveled to various states for preaching Islam, even as they were on tourist visas.
Nine Indian participants of the congregation have died of the coronavirus infection. Of the nine, six were in Telangana and one each in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and J&K. Among foreign nationals, one has died and 19 others are infected so far.
The Delhi Police by Tuesday afternoon, was able to track 1,830 of these missionaries -- 501 from tamil Nadu, 216 from Assam, 156 from Uttar Pradesh, 107 from Madhya Pradesh, 109 from Mahrashtra, 86 from Bihar and 73 from West Bengal among others.
Malaysian media reported that more than half of the country's known coronavirus cases were traced to a Tablighi Jamaat gathering outside Kuala Lumpur, in late February and early March. The New York Times reported that the Islamic missionaries who participated in the congregation in Malaysia spread the virus to Brunei and Thailand as well.
Founded by Deobandi cleric Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi in 1927 in Mewat, India, Tablighi Jamaat grew in prominence in Pakistan under General Zia ul Haq's Islamization of the country. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's father was a prominent Tablighi member and financier.
Tablighi Jamaat rejects modernity and preaches a code of conduct as practised during Prophet Mohammad's time, on the same lines as Wahhabi-Salafist ideology which many Islamic terror groups follow. The largest group of Islamic proselytizers, Tablighi Jamaat is credited for making Islam one of the fastest growing religions in the world.
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