The holy month of Ramzan has begun for Muslims all over the globe. The one-month-long festivities are usually associated with packed Mosques, vibrant markets, and a lot of hustle-bustle-–in short, coming together of people in close proximity which culminates with the festival of Eid. But given the unprecedented times, we are living in, no country can afford such big congregations or gatherings of any kind. The Wuhan virus is highly contagious and if it is given such a favorable medium, it could wreak absolute catastrophe.
Fortunately, the moment things went a little south, Saudi Arabia, the undisputable leader of the ‘Muslim world’ forbade pilgrims from touching the Kaba and later prayers were banned at the two most important Mosques in the world–Masjid al-Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi, in Mecca and Medina respectively.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem — Islam’s third holiest place — also closed its gates for the entire duration of Ramzan, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf Council had announced.
However, there seems to be a line—albeit an invisible line which is demarcating the way Muslims of the east are celebrating Ramzan from those on the west. The response of the West Asian Muslim world in the wake of the pandemic has been praiseworthy, to say the least, but while clerics and governments across the Muslim world are willing to greet Ramzan under lockdown, and urging worshippers to pray at home, the fresh converts are singing their own tune and making a mockery of all the lockdown norms.
The Imran Khan government of Pakistan succumbed to the clergy of the country and announced that the mosques will remain open during Ramzan even when the total number of cases in the Islamic country has crossed over 10,000.
In Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan, scenes emerged of worshipers chasing the police through narrow alleyways, pelting them with rocks, and sending several officers to the hospital when they tried to close the Mosques.
It does not take much brains to figure out that the mosques are perfect vectors for the Wuhan virus’ spread as worshippers gather to perform ablutions together before cramming into the mosques, shoulder to shoulder in supplication and thereby increase the chances to contract the virus manifolds.
But the hapless and toothless government of Pakistan gave in front of its powerful religious leaders who seem to have the backing of Pakistan army and ISI collectively.
Even in India, several reports have come in where Muslims have been found flouting the rules and attending religious gatherings.
Maharashtra: Hundreds flout social distancing norms as crowd gathers at market in Mumbra https://t.co/tsIhjqU1o4
— Republic (@republic) April 24, 2020
Yesterday, hordes of people were seen Ramzan shopping and moving around at the Shastri Park area of North-east Delhi. The area witnessed huge crowds in the morning despite the lockdown orders.
— ANI (@ANI) April 24, 2020
In another instance, the Lal Kuan area of Delhi, a highly populated and a minority-dominated area, was the busiest market on Friday.
Akali leader Majinder S Sirsa alleged that the Lal Kuan area which is currently under Imran Hussain of Aam Aadmi Party is non-serious regarding the deadly epidemic of Wuhan coronavirus.
फराश खाना, लाल कुआँ (मंत्री @ImranHussaain) के क्षेत्र का हाल देखिये @ArvindKejriwal जी और उनके मंत्री कितने NON-SERIOUS है कोरोना वायरस की समस्या को लेकर – इस वीडियो में साफ ज़ाहिर pic.twitter.com/jwanf5Abbi
— Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) April 24, 2020
In Indonesia, hundreds of villagers in Maluku flocked to local mosques to perform tarawih, despite the government’s ban on congregational prayers at mosques due to the outbreak. Some mosques were so crowded in Wakal and Tengah-tengah that not all worshippers could be accommodated, forcing some to pray in the mosques’ courtyards.
There seems to be a clear pattern on the way things operate in both the diametrically opposite Muslim world. Reported by TFI, the zeal of fresh converts is one of the possible reasons as to why the South-eastern Muslims tend to be defiant of the religious gathering rules.
When it came down to choosing between religion and life, the undisputed leader of the Muslim world- the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia chose the latter.
Ironically, radicalism to the extent of observing religious practices in times of Wuhan virus outbreak has come not from West Asia, but South and Southeast Asia, even as the relatively new, disconnected Muslims could not hide their zealousness.
Muslims in the Middle East being the “original” Muslims, do not have to wear their faith on their sleeves, and this exactly the reason why we do not see the kind of zealousness that can take away their own lives, as well as that of their fellow beings.
On the other hand, Muslims in South Asian countries like Pakistan and Malaysia, and more so in a “Secular” country like India suffers from a severe identity crisis, and thus a “good” Muslim has to affirm his identity that much more zealousness, even if that means getting infected with a deadly virus.
The decision to close off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina was taken with the severity of the situation in mind. The gravity of the situation could be understood from the fact that this drastic step was not even taken during the 1918 flu epidemic when tens of millions were killed worldwide.
Yet, the converted Muslims in this part of the world turn a blindside to the facts and indulge in their inanity.
We saw the divide in Muslims in the form of Tablighi Jamaat and its hoodlums who listened to their Islamic masters and went on a rampage across the country spreading the virus far and wide whilst spitting, urinating, and indulging in incendiary and predatory behavior with the doctors.
Sharing Tik-Tok videos with the message that ‘Allah’ will cure the virus and that a true Muslim will not leave ‘Sunnat’ gives more fire to the belief that radical Indian Muslims have a serious identity crisis.
— Keya Ghosh (@keyakahe) March 21, 2020
After all, when a faithful from the Indian Subcontinent is called “al Hindi” in the Gulf, it creates a feeling of inferiority. Saudi Arabia refuses to recognize Indian Muslims and other Indians as separate cultures, which further enrages the radical Islamists in the Subcontinent.
The crux of the matter is that the line between the east and west Muslims might be invisible to the naked eye but it is there and more than ever-present with mounting pieces of evidence. The need to overcompensate to prove their allegiances to the Wahhabi world more often than not could prove to be the undoing of Muslims in this hemisphere of the world. The Governments around need to be cautious.