April 04, 2020

Maulana Saad Replies to Delhi Police Notice, Says 'Tablighi Jamaat Members Tested Coronavirus Positive is Co-Incidence'

Maulana Saad, in his written statement, has termed the incident of Jamaat headquarters guests being positive for coronavirus, "a co-incidence" only.

Men, who according to health and police officials had visited three Muslim missionary gatherings including in Nizamuddin area of New Delhi, wearing protective masks sit in an ambulance that will take them to a quarantine facility amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Maulana Saad Replies to Delhi Police Notice, Says 'Tablighi Jamaat Members Tested Coronavirus Positive is Co-Incidence'New Delhi: Nizamuddin's Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Mohd. Saad Kandhalvi has admitted that the crime branch of Delhi Police has issued a notice to him along with a questionnaire.

Maulana Saad's son and Jamaat Committee member Mohd. Yusuf Saad gave a written statement to IANS on Friday. According to Yusuf the statement was drafted in consultation with the Maulana.


"Media reports about the Jamaat headquarters since March 31 are only a part of conspiracy and attempt to defame the Markaz. Tablighi Jamaat doesn't have any connection with any political party," the statement read with the acceptance that the crime branch has registered a case against Maulana saad.

Maulana Saad, in his written statement, has termed the incident of Jamaat headquarters guests being positive for coronavirus, "a co-incidence" only.


"This is a co-incidence. As soon as we got to know about the coronavirus, we banned the entry of guests in the headquarters. We have a record of every guest. The Jamaat headquarters made all possible efforts to send back all the guests to their homes," Maulana Saad said in his statement.

The statement further read: "Soon after the Prime Minister declared complete lockdown on the midnight of March 24 following the Janata Curfew, the government machinery had stopped the event organised at the Jamaat headquarters. The event was postponed for undeclared time. In the last few days, all people who have attended the event, whether they are Indians or foreigners, have been evacuated. They have either been quarantined at various places or been hospitalised".

According to the statement, "FIR number 63/2020 has been filed with the New Delhi Crime Branch and a notice has been served against this under Section-91 of CrPC. The crime branch has asked for all documentary evidences in this notice".


According to a source, in a reply to the crime branch on Friday, the Jamaat headquarters said, "The police have sealed the markaz. Most of the agents of Maulana Saad are now in quarantine homes. Hence, it is impossible to provide these evidences. So, when the Jamaat headquarters will be opened and all managers will be assembled, the crime branch will be provided with the evidences

Coronavirus: Pakistan quarantines Tablighi Jamaat missionaries


Popular Islamic movement faces pressure to curb activities in Pakistan after mass gathering linked to spread of virus around world

A globally influential Islamic missionary movement is facing mounting pressure to curb its activities in Pakistan after holding a mass gathering last month which has been linked to the spread of coronavirus as far afield as Gaza.

About 250,000 people travelled from around the world to attend Tablighi Jamaat's annual conference, or Ijtema, in Raiwind, south of Lahore, which went ahead in mid-March despite growing concerns about the dangers posed by the global pandemic.

Two Palestinian men who had been in Lahore days later became the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Gaza

For three days, attendees from dozens of countries prayed, ate and slept in close quarters before organisers bowed to pressure to cut the event short.

But on Thursday, Pakistani authorities placed the entire town of Raiwind under quarantine, closing shops and preventing people from entering or leaving, after at least 40 Tablighi Jamaat preachers tested positive for the virus.

Worshippers leave Raiwind as the Tablighi Ijtema is cut short on 13 March 2020 (AFP)
Worshippers leave Raiwind as the Tablighi Ijtema is cut short on 13 March 2020 (AFP)

About 600 people are reported to be currently staying at the group's centre, or markaz, in Raiwind, with around 300 people who attended the conference still stranded there and unable to return to their home countries since Pakistan halted all international flights.

In a statement, Lahore Deputy Commissioner Danish Afzaal pinned the blame for the outbreak on Tablighi Jamaat.

"The government's apprehensions stood true as several Tablighi Jamaat activists have tested positive for coronavirus and they caused the spread of it,” Afzaal said.

Tariq Jameel, a popular Islamic television preacher and Tablighi Jamaat member, told Middle East Eye, before the lockdown was enforced that the event had gone ahead because many attendees had already arrived in Pakistan and there was no time to cancel it.

“As the time of the conference approached, people had already arranged travel, and some were already present in Lahore,” said Jameel.

From Raiwind to Gaza

Tablighi Jamaat is a Sunni missionary movement that was founded in India in 1926 encouraging spiritual self-renewal, a focus on religious ritual and a return to the ways of the Prophet Muhammad.

Face-to-face proselytising, short preaching missions and attending the annual gatherings bringing together members from around the world are considered key duties for Tablighi Jamaat followers, who are estimated to number about 80 million worldwide.

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But as members of the group dispersed from Raiwind, some took the virus with them.

Two Palestinian men who had been in Lahore days later became the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Gaza after being tested as they entered the besieged enclave from Egypt.

Five men from Kyrgyzstan who remained in Islamabad after attending the Ijtema also contracted the virus, while five Nigerian women suspected of being infected were also placed in quarantine.

Conference participants have been linked to outbreaks elsewhere in Pakistan, with at least four attendees among 38 confirmed Tablighi Jamaat cases in the southern Sindh province.

The wider movement has also been blamed for spreading the virus in Malaysia and India, where the issue has fuelled further Islamophobia against a Muslim minority already facing Hindu nationalist violence and discrimination.

The reported clustering of cases around Tablighi Jamaat centres in Pakistan has led to criticism of the movement for failing to heed calls to postpone the gathering, but also tensions as authorities have sought to isolate members now deemed to pose a risk of spreading the virus further.

A man stands at the closed entrance of the Makki Masjid Tablighi centre in Karachi this week after the government ordered those inside to quarantine (Reuters)
A man stands at the closed entrance of the Makki Masjid Tablighi centre in Karachi this week after the government ordered those inside to quarantine (Reuters)

Tablighi Jamaat centres in other towns and cities including Hyderabad and Mardan, each housing scores of worshippers, have also been the focus of quarantining measures.

In the Punjab city of Layyah, a member stabbed a police officer while trying to escape from a Tablighi Jamaat centre as quarantining measures were being enforced.

And on Friday, police were attacked by worshippers as they tried to stop a Friday prayers congregation from gathering at the Ghousia mosque in Karachi province. Four people were arrested  for violating the government imposed-crackdown, but the cleric of the mosque was not arrested due to community pressure. 

Spreader or scapegoat?

Government ministers have been among those to pour scorn on the group, and other religious movements, for failing to take steps to minimise the spread of infection by limiting the number of people attending prayers.

Pointing the finger at religious congregations, Fawad Chaudhry, the minister for science and technology, singled out Tablighi Jamaat and Barelvi preachers for criticism.

'We are very concerned that Tablighi Jamaat refused to limit the congregation so they are responsible'

- Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Science and Technology

“We are very concerned that Tablighi Jamaat refused to limit the congregation so they are responsible. The religious clergy's regressive opinions are what led to this catastrophe,” he said.

But others have suggested that Tablighi Jamaat makes a convenient scapegoat and a distraction from the Pakistani government's own failings in responding to the coronavirus crisis as the number of cases and the death toll continue to increase.

“It's not fair to blame one group. The government has failed to take any action from the beginning. They are making a scapegoat of people,” said Ahsan Iqbal, a former interior minister.

“People have not been made aware of the potential danger and the lifestyle changes they need to incorporate in their daily life so that can protect themselves from coronavirus.”

In Quetta, people waiting to collect rations from a welfare trust maintain social distancing (AFP)
In Quetta, people waiting to collect rations from a welfare trust maintain social distancing (AFP)

Like other countries around the world, Pakistan has started imposing social distancing policies in an attempt to control the spread of the disease and protect the country's fragile healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

But critics say that the government has been slow to act and has not gone far enough, with doctors among those calling for public gatherings, including religious worship, to be banned.

Unlike many other Muslim-majority countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, religious leaders in Pakistan from both Sunni and Shia communities have not yet been required to close their mosques.

'The government has failed to take any action from the beginning. They are making a scapegoat of people'

- Ahsan Iqbal, former interior minister

Last week, Noorul Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs, told reporters that mosques would remain open, but worshippers would be kept to a minimum and people over 50 and children would be barred.

Maulana Zahid Qasmi, chairman of Pakistan’s Ulema Islamic Council, a Muslim umbrella group with members from a range of movements, told MEE that his organisation is encouraging members to pray at home only in the hardest-hit areas of the country.

“In areas that are less affected, we will continue gatherings and prayers, and inform the congregations about health issues during our sermons,” he said.

“We are concerned about the virus, but in order to survive this pandemic, we need to pray to God as a state with strength.”

Mixed messages

For their part, Tablighi Jamaat leaders last week sent out a letter to the movement's followers instructing them to stop their door-to-door visits and not to congregate.

The letter appeared to be an attempt to address concerns that the group's signature methods of face-to-face proselytising, or dawah, risked contributing to the spread of the virus.

Yet influential members of the movement have also sent out mixed messages.

After the Lahore event, Jameel, the Islamic television preacher, gave a speech in which he said: “God chooses who is infected and who is not, and God will save us.”

'Our ideology will see us through'

- Rizwan Shahid, Tablighi Jamaat follower 

By 1 April Jameel appeared to have tempered his views, describing the virus as life-threatening and calling on people to avoid gatherings and to pray at home instead, as directed by the government. 

By then however, some Tablighi Jamaat members were already questioning whether social distancing measures and curbs on their traditional activities were necessary.

“Our ideology will see us through. We must all be spiritually connected, and asking for forgiveness is our only option,” Rizwan Shahid, a 43-year-old member in Lahore, told MEE.

Arsalan Khan, an assistant anthropology professor at Union College in New York who has researched and written about the movement, told MEE that it is hard for followers to conceive that a practice to spread religious virtue could be “a vehicle for the spread of illness and death”.

There is also a financial consideration, he said. Many Tablighi Jamaat mosques house madrassa-educated imams who rely on donations from worshippers for their income.

“The ulema cannot be seen as betraying them. This is definitely one factor, though certainly not the only one, in the decision by the Pakistani ulema to not close the mosques,” he said.

MEE contacted leaders of the movement for comment this week but they had not responded at the time of publication.

Sabookh Syed, a Pakistani-based journalist and analyst focused on religious movements, agreed that Tablighi Jaamat leaders' reluctance to curtail the group's activities may have been part-motivated by economic factors, but he believes another more significant issue may be at play.

While the movement traditionally distances itself from and is distrustful of politics, its deep roots in Pakistani society, where it commands a large middle-class support base, mean that it has largely been left alone by the authorities.

Pakistani passengers sit atop buses as they make their way home from the three-day annual Tablighi Ijtema religious gathering in Raiwind on the outskirts of Lahore on November 6, 2016.
Tablighi Jaamat members head to a 2016 gathering in Raiwind (AFP)

Bowing to pressure over coronavirus could be seen as setting a precedent for future political interventions in the group's affairs, he suggests.

“Tablighi Jamaat regard the government as embodying the old colonial rulers, therefore they disregard their advice,” Syed said.

“Their main concerns are if the government closes the mosques and gatherings on this occasion, it will do so in the future.”

April 03, 2020

Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad's Stealthy Legions


Wealth in India: The poor do not count

We all know that Credit Suisse reckons that the richest 1% of Indians own 58.4% of the nation’s wealth, up from 36.8% in 2000. What is perhaps not so well-known is that, according to the Credit Suisse report, the bottom 70% of Indians together now own just 7% of the country’s wealth. That is down from 13.9% in 2010.

But do we have other domestic estimates of the wealth divide? Cast your eyes on Chart 1. It’s taken from the National Sample Survey Office’s report on Household Capital Expenditure in India. The chart shows the average value of assets held by each ‘household asset holding class’. A household asset holding class is defined as ‘the 10 decile classes of the rural/urban All-India distribution of households by asset holding size’. This means that decile 1 in the chart comprises the poorest 10% of households in terms of their holding of assets. Similarly, decile 10 denotes the richest tenth of households in terms of asset ownership. Almost all physical and financial assets are included.

There are several interesting facts about Chart 1. The average value of assets held by a household in decile 10 in urban India, or the richest 10%, is Rs1.5 crore. That is 50,034 times the average value of assets held by an urban household in the lowest decile. It’s 18.7 times the average value of assets held by a household in the 6th decile. And it’s 4.1 times the average value of assets held by a household in the ninth decile, one rung lower than the top 10%. What’s more, these are just the official figures— God only knows how much more skewed these numbers would be if we found some way to include undeclared wealth in the data.

If we count the assets of the poor, we find the poor do not count.

That’s not all. Let’s assume that we have ten households, one in each decile, which has the average assets in that decile. The household in the poorest decile — decile 1—will then have Rs291, the one in decile 2 assets worth Rs9,565 and so on. The richest household will then have assets worth Rs1.5 crore. But if we add up the total value of assets held by all the rest, that is the other nine households, that amounts to Rs82,90,418. In other words, the richest household’s assets are worth much more than that of all the others combined. The same conclusion holds if we take the distribution of rural assets.

Of course, if the distribution of assets is so skewed, so too will be the return or income from these assets.

Now, let’s take a look at consumption. Chart 2, taken from the report ‘Key indicators of Household Consumer Expenditure in India’, shows the monthly per capita expenditure of the different classes, from the poorest 5% to the richest 5%.

Differences in consumption are not as skewed as wealth or income, because there’s a limit to what a person can consume in many items. Monthly per capita expenditure of the richest 5% in urban India is 14.7 times that of the poorest 5%. It is 4.7 times that of the lowest 50-60% bracket, who are India’s actual middle classes.

The pattern of expenditure is even more interesting. For instance, total medical expenditure per month of a person in the 50-60% group is Rs119. For the top 5%, it’s Rs658. Availability of good healthcare, as we all know, is highly skewed. The poor simply cannot afford it. Or take expenditure on education. For those in the 50-60% bracket, spending on education per month is a mere Rs125. For the richest 5%, it’s Rs908. It’s not just wealth that’s distributed unequally, so is opportunity. Durable goods consumption of the richest 5% is 23 times that of people in the 50-60% group. Spending on personal transport equipment of the richest 5% is 35 times that of the 50-60% group. Given these disparities, even if a disaster were to cut down the consumption of the lower half of the population by a third, it will be a tragedy for the poor, but it will make little difference to the overall spending.

This is perhaps a reason why, despite the hardships that demonetization imposed on the poor, the hit to gross domestic product (GDP) has been so little. That is why the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), which too will have a negative impact on the informal sector, may not dent GDP growth by much.

In short, the poor do not really matter as consumers. They do matter, however, as a reserve army of labour, keeping wages down in the overall economy and boosting profits, which bolsters the incomes of the rich.

The very rich have done wonderfully. The Economic Survey of 2015-16, for example, pointed out that the share of income of the top 0.1% in India in 2012 was 5.1%, that of the top 0.5% was 9.6% and that of the top 1% was 12.6%. It said, “The change between the late 1990s and today in income shares is greater than the change in the UK and similar to that in the US". This was declared income; so the actual shares would be much larger.

According to data from a paper by Abhijit Banerjee and Thomas Piketty, in 1992-93, at the dawn of liberalization, the share of the top 0.1% was 1.9%, the top 0.5% was 4.8% and that of the top 1% was 6.96%. Contrast that with 1922-23, during the heydays of the British Raj, when the share of the top 0.1% was 5.86%, the top 0.5% was 9.97% and that of the top 1% was 12.72%. That’s more or less similar to what it is now. The wheel has come full circle. Income inequality is back to where it was when the country was under the colonial yoke. The British Raj may have gone, but for the poor, the yoke remains.

Manas Chakravarty looks at trends and issues in the financial markets. Respond to this column at manas.c@livemint.com