The United Kingdom’s handling of the Wuhan Coronavirus has received widespread criticism from people across the board. Initially, the British Government chose to pursue the ‘herd immunity’ option but it was only when it became evident that the devastation caused by that foolhardy path would be so huge, the government was forced to course-correct. It is under these circumstances that one particular meeting of ISKCON became the source of infections for many devotees in the United Kingdom. And certain motivated actors from India are now equating ISKCON and their cases of Coronavirus in the UK with the malicious conduct of the Tablighi Jamaat in India.
Shahid Siddiqui, known to be an apologist for Islamism, claimed, “Andh Bhakti, blind faith is the source of all problems not TJ or ISKCON”.
Vidya Krishnan, ‘health and science journalist’, who has earlier spread malicious lies about India’s response to the Wuhan Coronvirus pandemic to achieve politically partisan goals, said, “In London, the Hindu diaspora is at the centre of a cluster outbreak. Their govt has not vilified the minority the way Health & Home Ministry does every single day during the briefing.”
Other Islamic apologists have also joined the fray and pretending as if the case of ISKCON in the UK and the Tablighi Jamaat in India are similar even though there is nothing remotely similar in the two cases.
Now, let us get to the truth of the matter. So far, 21 devotees have been confirmed to have been infected with the Wuhan Coronavirus, of which five have passed away due to it. Two meetings, on the 12th and 15th of March, have come into question which was attended by around a thousand devotees. The infections at ISKCON represent a minor fraction of the Wuhan Coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom. As of the time of writing this report, there were 51,608 cases in the country and 5,373 deaths.
Thus, ISKCON currently contributes to only 0.04% of the cases in the UK and the percentage of deaths is at 0.09%. Thus, ISKCON’s contribution to the number of cases and deaths in the UK due to the Chinese Coronavirus is incredibly low. Compare this number to the Tablighi Jamaat in India. As of the 6th of April, 1445 of the confirmed 4067 Chinese Coronavirus cases in India were linked to the Islamic Missionary organization. That is, 35.5% of the cases were linked to it. It’s a ridiculously high number when compared to ISKCON in the UK. The two cases are definitely not the same.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that the ISKCON was not in violation of any government guidelines or order when the event was conducted on the 12th and 15th of March. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a stay at home order only on the 23rd of March, eight days after the second ISKCON event. Until then, it was still business as usual in the country. However, when Tablighi Jamaat had over a thousand members holed up at Markaz Nizamuddin, the Indian Government had already issued several social distancing guidelines and at the time of the religious event, they were clearly in violation of the orders against public gathering issued by the Delhi Government. Again, the two instances are definitely not the same.
The conduct of Tablighi Jamaat in India and ISKCON in the United Kingdom could not have been more different either. Unlike the Tablighi Jamaat, ISKCON devotees are not deliberately hiding the suspected cases to avoid detection and thereby, undermining the government’s efforts to curb the pandemic. Moreover, unlike the Tablighi Jamaat, the gathering did not claim that their God will somehow protect them from the pandemic or that the virus was a conspiracy against their religion. In fact, all ISKCON Temples were closed on the 16th of March, a week before Boris Johnson issued the lockdown orders.
The Tablighi Jamaat’s overall behaviour has been atrocious as well. Its members have misbehaved with the hospital staff, they roamed around the hospital naked and made sexually inappropriate gestures at the female healthcare staff. They threw tantrums over the food and demanded that they are served better served instead. They abused officials and spat at doctors in order to spread the virus further. Furthermore, they refused to adhere to social distancing norms in quarantine and huddled up together. They made unreasonable demands by claiming that they should be provided with entertainment and the ones which tested positive refused to take their medicines. ISKCON devotees have not done anything that is remotely comparable to any of it. People who are pretending that both cases are similar are running deliberate propaganda in order to dilute the severity of the Tablighi Jamaat’s atrocious conduct.
The people equating the conduct of the Tablighi Jamaat in India and the ISKCON in the United Kingdom are fully aware that the two cases have nothing in common with each other. But they are claiming so regardless of the truth because it serves their political agenda. It is not only in India that the Tablighi Jamaat has emerged as super spreader. The Islamic Missionary organization has spread the virus across the entire South Asian region and even in places as far off as Palestine. Therefore, to even claim that there is similarity between the cases is nothing short of acting as apologists for Radical Islam.
Moreover, certain individuals have claimed that the India government has ‘communalized’ the pandemic and is selectively targeting the Muslim community because Tablighi Jamaat has received great attention from all quarters due to its deplorable conduct. It is a familiar argument that props up every time a Radical Islamic organization indulges in criminal conduct. The same people who claim that not all Muslims are terrorists or bigots (something that everyone is well aware of) whenever a terrorist attack occurs equates the criticism directed at Tablighi Jamaat to hate spread against the entire Muslim community. It is a pathetic attempt to shield the Tablighi Jamaat from fair criticism.
In the latest instance, these people have attempted to put undue blame on ISKCON for sins they did not commit. It could be argued that they should not have organized the events on the 12th and 15th of March, something even ISKCON concedes, but their actions must be judged on the backdrop of the conduct of the British Government itself which did not take the virus seriously enough until it was too late. As such, the contribution of ISKCON to the Wuhan Coronavirus cases in the UK are not even remotely significant. It is clear that motivated propagandists are blaming ISKCON and comparing them their actions with the Tablighi Jamaat in order to shield the latter from all their fair criticism that is coming its way.