While BTV, a Kannada news channel called Tablighi Jamaat a ‘terrorist virus’, Sudarshan News, a Muslim bashing hate channel called the novel coronavirus as ‘Corona Jihad’, insinuating a Muslim-led conspiracy behind its spread.
For the past few days, ever since the death of six people from Telangana was connected to the congregation they attended in Delhi’s Markaz Nizamuddin, the global headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, a section of media has launched an unrelenting tirade against the pan-Islamic movement and blamed them for the spread of the disease in the country.
Muslim organisations and leaders cutting across different schools of thoughts have voiced concern over the way sections of the media are selectively targeting the Tablighi Jamaat and portraying it as the purveyor of the pandemic.
They said while the whole world is unitedly fighting to contain the spread of the deadly pandemic, the media is busy demonising the whole Muslim community, by communalising a human tragedy.
The All India Dawah Centres Association (AIDCA), an umbrella group of various Islamic proselytising groups accused the media of using the contagion to fuel anti-Islamic sentiments.
“The way media is reporting on Tablighi Jamaat and Islam plays a role in the spread of Islamophobia. With half-baked truth, the media is bombarding news programs and trending hashtags like #CoronaJihad on social media against Muslims,” AIDCA said in a press statement.
While accusing the administration of refusing to recognize a proposed workable definition of Islamophobia, AIDCA urged the government to drop the charges levied against the Tablighi Jamaat and its chief Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, terming it as unjust.
Expressing his dismay, the president of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), Syed Sadatullah Husaini said media is “playing dirty politics of communal polarization” on a human tragedy. In his tweet, he further said this showed the low level of public discourse and mental bankruptcy of the media.
Targeting #TablighiJamaat & ignoring the bigger & more irresponsible gatherings; Playing dirty politics of communal polarization on such a huge #healthcrisis; It reflects shamefully low level of our public discourse.Let’s be more responsible & work unitedly to fight the #COVID19
— Syed Sadatullah Hussaini (@sadathusaini) March 31, 2020
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s president Maulana Syed Arshad Madani also blasted the media for giving communal colour to the COVID-19 cases connected to Nizamuddin Markaz. Maulana Madani said while the whole world has closed the rank in the battle against this dreaded pandemic, a section of media and certain groups are trying to divert the attention from the failures of the government, Muslim Mirror quoted him saying. He also warned that such irresponsible behaviour would weaken the fight and resolve against this pandemic.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s general secretary and former MP in Rajya Sabha Maulana Mahmood Madani, who opined that the Tablighi Jamaat should not have held such a meeting at a time when the world is fighting the epidemic, and the guilty should be published, he also said that the punishment should not be by the media.
“Governments and legal systems should decide the punishment. Their version should also be heard. Lakhs of people were on the roads after the lockdown. This is one reason why some hundreds of people were stuck in their office. The mismanagement in carrying out the lockdown is also to be blamed for what happened,” Maulana Mahmood Madani told in an interview to Business Line.
All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, president Navaid Hamid said in this hour of crisis, the media’s “irresponsible and communal” attitude is highly deplorable. In his tweet, he highlighted that Tablighi Jamaat had approached the concerned authorities for ferrying the stuck members to their respective native places homes but the requisite permission was never granted.
It's sad that sensible journalists too comment wid out investigative journalism. As per the available documentational proofs, #TableeghiJamaat had approached government officials including local police to help them in implementing all government directions. 1/7 https://t.co/ufhQZ4JN88 pic.twitter.com/dz3VqTGkEo
— Navaid Hamid نوید حامد (@navaidhamid) March 31, 2020
Popular Front of India (PFI)’s Chairman OMA Salam echoed the same sentiments and accused the Delhi state government and a section of media of victimising the Tablighi Jamaat to divert the attention from the “massive fallouts from the unprepared lockdown”.
He noted, “Whatever was intended by the lockdown, the social distancing failed miserably because of the highly unplanned nature it was executed. Instead, it is causing tragedies”.
“Markaz Nizamuddin had cancelled all their pre-scheduled programmes before the lockdown started and fully complied official instructions. However, the lockdown without a warning or adequate measures to address its aftermath proved tragic to millions of people,” he added.
The Markaz Nizamuddin, in a press statement on Tuesday, has issued a clarification that they did not violate any prohibitory orders of the government, but with a hurriedly announced nationwide lockdown, visitors were stranded and forced to seek accommodation at the premises, in accordance with the orders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for people to stay put at wherever they were.
It further defended itself saying that following the orders of the ‘Janata Curfew’ on March 22, the visitors were advised not to venture out, forcing them to drop plans of moving back to their native places. Then even before the ‘Janata Curfew’ ended, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a lockdown of the national capital from March 23 to March 31, further diminishing the visitors’ chances of availing road transport for their journey back home. It said, despite the challenging situation, the Markaz administration helped 1500 people to leave the building by availing whatever transport was available.
Further, it said, a surprise announcement was made by PM Modi on the evening of March 23 that the country would go into a 21-day total lockdown from midnight. It said, under such circumstances, the Markaz did not have any other option but to accommodate the stranded visitors in its building