The world is struggling to grapple with the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. It has spread across the world within a very short span of time and is overwhelming the healthcare facilities of some of the most developed countries in the world. Italy is being ravaged by the virus. People are dying in great numbers in France and Spain as well. Iran has been devastated by the virus.
The USA is struggling to tackle the virus as well. Large parts of the world are currently under lockdown as countries took severe measures to curb the spread of the pandemic. One country, however, that has been extremely lax in its approach and is contributing immensely to the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus is Pakistan.
Even as Iran cancelled the weekly prayers and Saudi Arabia suspended the Ummah pilgrimage by the end of February, Pakistan permitted the Tableeghi Ijtema organized by Tableeghi Jamaat to play out as planned. It was ultimately called off on the 12th of March but by then, around 2,50,000 people had already attended the event.
The event drew participants from numerous countries across the world. Even more bewilderingly, by the end of February, Pakistan had already recorded its first cases of the Wuhan Coronavirus. Nevertheless, the event which was scheduled to occur between the 11th of March and the 15th was not postponed despite numerous calls.
Raiwind in Lahore hosts the annual Tableeghi Ijtema. When it was called off on the 12th of March, the reason cited was not the pandemic but ‘rainy weather’. All the while, Islamic Clerics in Pakistan were issuing diktats that Islam will somehow protect the country from the Wuhan Coronavirus. Some claimed that the cure for the disease was the recital of certain Quranic verses which had been revealed in someone’s dream.
Another person said that he has the cure for the infection but won’t reveal it because he was afraid to be mocked like Aristotle and Socrates were. The Chief Minister of Punjab in Pakistan, Usman Bazdur, assured a delegation of Islamic clerics that Mosques will not be shut down to curb the Wuhan Coronavirus.
The end result of it all is that Pakistan is becoming a breeding ground of ‘super-spreaders’ of the Wuhan Coronavirus. On Sunday, Palestinian authorities revealed that two of its citizens with a recent history of travel to Pakistan had tested positive for the virus. They had attended the congregation in Raiwind.
A resident of Kyrgystan, who was staying with the Tableeghi Jamaat, has tested positive for the same. Even within Pakistan, the congregation has assisted the spreading of the infection greatly. Islamabad’s union council of Kot Hathial was placed under quarantine after six members of the Tableeghi Jamaat who live in the area tested positive for the Wuhan Coronavirus. Earlier, four people in Sindh had tested positive after attending the Tableeghi Ijtema.
In India, a member of the Tableeghi Jamaat with an extensive history of travel in the country died of the Wuhan Coronavirus in Srinagar. It’s not clear yet if he visited the congregation in Pakistan. However, it is reported that the Islamic preacher had travelled in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Samba, Jammu, Srinagar and Sopore to participate in religious events. Four others contracted the virus from him.
It is also reported that of Jammu and Kashmir’s eleven Wuhan Coronavirus patients, five of them had attended a religious event where the deceased religious preacher was also present. It is not yet clear how the person contracted the virus. According to reports, he was not cooperative during the investigation. “He wasn’t very forthcoming…not cooperative,” said a government health department official. However, it is speculated that he either travelled abroad or came into contact with those who had travelled abroad.
Meanwhile, Tableeghi Jamaat has surfaced as a great super-spreader of the Wuhan Coronavirus. Malaysian authorities reported that 624 of the 1030 cases in the country as of Friday were linked to a gathering organized by the Islamic missionary movement at a mosque outside of Kuala Lumpur. Over 1,500 foreigners from a dozen countries had attended the event. Most of the 73 cases in Brunei are connected to the event as are 10 cases in Thailand.
Eleven out of twelve people who tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus on March 16 in Cambodia had attended the Islamic evangelical event in Malaysia. The Muslims attending the event were religious despots who congregated at the Mosque despite the obvious risks associated with it. Seven Indonesian nationals who had tested positive for the virus in India had attended a Tablighi Ijtema in Telangana’s Karimnagar.
It is quite clear that Pakistan has become a breeding ground for the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus due to the whimsical approach of the authorities and the government in the country. Furthermore, organizations such as the Tableeghi Jamaat are still having an almost free run in the country, thereby, not only putting Pakistanis in jeopardy but citizens of other countries as well. They appear more concerned with ensuring that Islamic clerics are not miffed than with containing the spread of the virus. The predicament of Pakistan is comparable to that of Iran, another country that has been devastated by the Wuhan Coronavirus due to the pervasive religious fundamentalism of its population.