The Covid19 epidemic outbreak in Bharat has pushed the entire country into lockdown. An unintended consequence of this has been the unearthing of dozens of foreign Islamic preachers holed up in mosques in states as diverse as Telangana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra.
Many of these preachers belong to the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) – a controversial Islamic organisation founded in Mewat, undivided Bharat in 1926. TJ is a Muslim missionary and revival movement which preaches a strict adherence to Quran and practices which prevailed at the time of Mohammed. TJ members have been linked to terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere, and its preaching was even banned in Pakistan university campuses. While the organisation publicly eschews political Islam, it is still considered a passive supporter of jihadist groups and an indirect line to Islamic terrorism.
It is important to mention here that a Tablighi Jamaat congregation was held on 18th March in Jakarta despite the threat of the corona virus, and two-thirds of the positive cases in Malaysia were from a Kuala Lumpur mosque where an earlier congregation took place.
10 Indonesian preachers of Tablighi Jamaat who tested positive for Coronavirus had come for an Islamic evangelical event (ijtema) in Karimnagar, Telangana. They have put at least 80 other lives at risk by travelling by train on 13 March from Delhi. One of the special branch officers who was attached to the group to monitor their activities has also tested positive and been admitted to Gandhi hospital
Few kms away from my house Patna police hv detained 12 foreign nationals who had hidden in the mosque with the help of locals to evade coronavirus testing. Similarly a 38yr old Saif Ali who tested positive, passed away. He had come to Bihar from Qatar.#COVIDIOTS #Covid_19india pic.twitter.com/AWJCS4onG8
— Gautam Vats 🇮🇳 (@jhagautam333) March 23, 2020
In Patna, locals helped 10 Islamic preachers from Kyrgyzstan to hide in a mosque so that they could escape being tested for corona virus. Acting on a complaint by the locals, police picked them up from a mosque in Kurji area of the Bihar capital and sent them for testing.
11 maulvis (Islamic preachers) from China, Krygyzstan and Kazakhstan staying in a Ranchi mosque were detained by the Jharkhand police.
Similarly a group of 12 Indonesian, 8 Myanmarese and 15 Gujarati Muslim preachers were found to be residing in Ambur, Tamil Nadu (TN). This group was subjected to medical examination and none tested positive for corona.
5 Thai preachers of the Tablighi Jamaat, of whom 2 tested positive, have also been caught in Erode, TN following which a lockdown was ordered and more than 120 people who went to the same mosque as the five have been isolated. The five were carrying out religious preaching while reportedly holding a tourist visa.
Another group of 11 Indonesian preachers from Tablighi Jamaat have been found in Salem, TN – 4 of them and a travel guide accompanying them have tested positive for Covid19. They have visited at least four mosques in the region — at Kitchipalayam, Ammapet, Shevapet, Ponnammapet and Erumapalayam.
Another 50 Islamic preachers from Indonesia, Thailand and Kyrgyzstan have been quarantined in Thanjavur district, TN. They had arrived from New Delhi a month back and spread out to Kanchipuram, Chengalpet and Adirampattinam in the district, staying in local mosques, visiting Muslim families in their homes and preaching Islam.
11 foreign Islamic preachers, mostly from Kyrgyzstan, were found in a Chandrapur, Maharashtra mosque. Preachers from other states like Delhi, Odisha, Kerala were accompanying then. They have now been quarantined.
In most of the above cases, concerned locals raised the alarm and alerted authorities to test and quarantine these foreign preachers.
Visa guidelines being openly flouted?
According to MHA ‘General Policy guidelines relating to Indian Visa‘ –
The guidelines for tourist visa state –
Bharat has a provision for ‘Missionary Visa’, but guidelines for it too clearly state that no ‘proselytization, preaching or evangelism’ is allowed –
Given that there is an explicit bar on foreigners engaging in tabligh (an Arabic word which means ‘to reach out the message’, i.e. ‘propagation of the Message of Islam’), it is stunning how such foreign TJ preachers managed to get any sort of visa. In the case of the Indonesian TJ preachers found in Telangana, there was even a special branch officer attached to the group to ‘monitor their activities.’ So were they knowingly allowed to operate by security agencies?
The Bharatiya political class too is well aware of the presence of such foreign Islamic preachers in the country, as MNS chief Raj Thackeray had twice raised the issue in recent public speeches. He had levelled the charge that even police do not have access to those areas and hence it cannot be said with certainty that what goes on there. Terming the presence of foreign preachers as ‘suspicious’, he had said it needs to be investigated.
Although Raj Thackeray has limited his allegation to Maharashtra, the pandemic and the subsequent combing activities has made it amply clear that it is time for the home ministry to step in and conduct a thorough investigation; not just with regard to the presence of Islamic preachers but also as to how foreigners are allowed to preach and/or proselytise.
(Featured Image Source: Organiser)
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