[P]eople practicing their faith have become unwitting but powerful vectors in the spread of the virus. A cultlike church helped fuel the pandemic in South Korea. A synagogue north of New York City was at the center of an early outbreak. An evangelical congregation in France was the source of hundreds of infections.
Gatherings last month at the headquarters of a prominent Muslim missionary group [called Tablighi Jamaat] are emerging as India’s first “super-spreader” event, complicating efforts to control rising infections in this nation of 1.3 billion people. More than 400 confirmed cases and at least 10 deaths across the country — stretching from Tamil Nadu in the south to Kashmir in the north — have been linked to people who attended events at the Tablighi Jamaat center near a historic shrine in India’s capital.
The infections … represent about a fifth of India’s total cases.
Yeah, I know it’s not funny, but that’s all I got.
The group has as many as 80 million adherents worldwide [though Wikipedia claims the number is between 150 and 250 million — TF]. It is built around small bands of itinerant missionaries who urge fellow Muslims to deepen their observance and model their lives directly on the ways of the prophet Muhammad. The group eschews politics and in theory operates without formal record-keeping, said Barbara Metcalf, a prominent historian of South Asian Islam. It stresses proselytizing and travel, producing a “state of vulnerability and uncertainty in which one learns to be dependent on God.”
State of vulnerability and uncertainty achieved. Now let’s see if God will come through for them.
Some Indians fear that it’s precisely the groups’s desire for frangible conditions that’s behind the outbreak. In other words, they suspect — without evidence — that members of Tablighi Jamaat spread the virus deliberately.
One prime-time anchor referred to the coronavirus cases as “a murderous attack in the name of faith,” and “CoronaJihad” trended on social media.
India’s ethnic relations are volatile in the best of times. It doesn’t require a crystal ball to see that in the current cauldron of fear and resentment, some people will die at the hands of their fellow citizens, not just from COVID-19.
(Image via Shutterstock)