Tablighi Itjema, the Islamic evangelical event held in Malaysia late last month has emerged as the ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak in South East Asia.
11 out of 12 people who tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus on March 16 in Cambodia had attended the Islamic evangelical event in Malaysia. A total of 79 Muslims had returned from Malaysia after attending the Tablighi Ijtema, a 3-day ‘show of strength’ event of Muslims which is all about moral reform of individuals and is often described as ‘making Muslims true Muslims’. The event was reportedly attended by over 16,000 Muslims from several countries.
The event was held between 27 February 2020 to 1 March 2020. 34-year-old Malaysian man who had attended the event died on Tuesday. He is the first reported death linked to the evangelical event. As per reports, out of a total 673 confirmed cases in Malaysia, as many as 2/3rd are linked to the mosque gathering. Apparently, only about half of Malaysian population that attended the event has come forward to get tested. This has raised apprehensions that the actual number of infected people could be even higher. On Tuesday, Malaysia reported two deaths from coronavirus, one of whom had attended the event.
As of now, Brunei has confirmed 50 cases linked to Tablighi Ijtema. The number stands at 5 in Singapore, and two in Thailand. Vietnam, too, has a confirmed coronavirus case linked to the event. A total of 67 people have tested positive in Vietnam.
As per a Reuters report, some of the Muslims who attended the event have refused to get themselves tested for coronavirus and are relying on Allah to protect them. About a third of the people who attended the event are reportedly yet to be traced. One of the attendees, 41-year-old Karim who tested positive for coronavirus blames the government for not cancelling the event. Speaking to Reuters, Karim is disappointed that the blame of spreading coronavirus is put on those who attended the event.
Tablighi Jamaat, of which Tablighi Ijtema is an integral part, is a global Islamic missionary movement which urges Muslims to return to the way Islam was practiced during the time of Prophet Muhammad. The focus is on rituals, dress and personal behaviour and is considered one of the most influential Islamic religious movements of 20th century. It has become world’s second largest Muslim congregation after the Islamic holy pilgrimage of Hajj.
The movement was founded in 1927 by Islamic scholar Muhammad Ilyas ibn Muhammad Ismail in Mewat, India. Mewat, which has emerged as a hotbed of illegal Rohingya Bangladeshis in recent times, is a geographical region which falls in Rajasthan and Haryana.