‘Few tested positive’: Tablighi chief’s comeback on Jamaat spreading Covid-19
“How many other places saw much larger gatherings during late February and all throughout March, and can they be held responsible for disease?,” said Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad.Updated: Apr 21, 2020 12:37 IST
The chief the Tablighi Jamaat, Maulana Saad, tells Hindustan Times in an interview through his lawyer that he is willing to cooperate with the police, and that no illegal activity took place at the Markaz building, which is the biggest Covid-19 hot spot in India. Edited excerpts:
Is it true that you organised Ijtema without permission?
Do not confuse Ijtema with normal day-to-day activities and religious programmes held in Markaz Nizamuddin. Ijtema is generally a large congregation which is held in open public spaces for which proper permissions are taken from the concerned authorities.
Follow latest updates on coronavirus here
Markaz Nizamuddin is basically a masjid namely Bangle Wali Masjid, where normal religious sermons are given on a daily basis throughout the year. Being a masjid, I don’t think there is any requirement to seek permission to give sermons or to have other religious discourses within the building.
Is it true that you’re not supporting the police investigation?
This is completely misplaced. We have always maintained that it is necessary to cooperate in every manner with the authorities; this has been our history of a hundred years. It is out of question that there would be no support to the investigating authorities. So far whatever notices we have received from Delhi Police have been duly replied to.
Why are you silent about the accusations against you?
As advised by doctors, I was in self-quarantine, with the police aware of the fact and my whereabouts. We are not experts of social media or the optics of building a narrative, so it may not have reached all, but I immediately addressed Tabligh members, wherever they are, to come forward and cooperate with authorities in the measures they are taking to eliminate the Covid risk, whether it’s quarantine, isolation, or testing.
Also Watch | ‘Not absconding’: Tablighi Jamaat chief’s lawyer on ED money laundering case
What about the alleged unaccounted foreign funding to the Jamaat? ED has registered a case against you in this regard.
This is completely baseless and false. We take pride in the fact that no illegal activity has ever happened at Markaz and we shall always keep it that way. We are yet to receive any notice in this regard; all such accusations exist only in the media. I am sure that I will be able to give a satisfactory explanation for any such accusation, but for that, I should first be aware of what is the allegation, if any.
Some foreign jamaatis are charged of violation of visa regulations because they travelled on tourist visas. Why did the Markaz allow it to happen?
People have been coming to our country in this manner for decades with the same set of permissions, and the authorities have never pointed this out as an issue. We always report the presence of foreigners in Markaz Nizamuddin to police authorities; this has been the practice for decades. In my limited understanding, I fail to see how it would amount to a violation of the visa rule. Markaz neither invites any foreigner nor does it sponsor any visa for foreigners.
Is the Markaz responsible for the spread of the disease in India?
It’s unfortunate that a few members have tested Covid positive, but an overwhelming majority of TJ members have tested negative too; does that make Markaz “responsible for the disease”? You must also constantly ask this question to yourself -- when was the first Covid case reported in India; and what actions were taken? How many other places saw much larger gatherings during late February and all throughout March, and can they be held responsible for disease?
You knew about Covid; why did you not cancel the event?
There was a pre-scheduled event in March for which participants had started arriving from far-off places. Till late February, and even middle March, everything was going on as normal. As soon as the janta curfew took place, we discontinued the programme and evacuated the participants.
Several Muslim leaders are demanding a ban on the Jamaat.
I don’t know about any such demand. I would like to say that I’ve been informed that in some cases, where patients who had tested positive for Covid-19, and have since recovered, their plasma can be used for treatment. I urge my friends from TJ who have been successfully treated to donate their plasma to patients of any caste or religion who are still fighting this disease.