When the Coronavirus Pandemic struck this cruel world, some of the first religious shrines in the world to shut down were Masjid al-Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi, in Mecca and Medina respectively. First, Saudi Arabia forbade pilgrims from touching the Kaba and later prayers were banned at the two most important Mosques in the world.
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 Coronavirus outbreak has come not from West Asia, but South and Southeast Asia, even as the relatively new, disconnected Muslims couldn’t hide their zealousness.
Out of the entire Muslim world, it took a Tablighi Jamaat– an organization formed by the historically converted Muslims in the Mewat district in Haryana of a “Secular” India to hold religious gatherings in Malaysia, Pakistan and India spreading Coronavirus like a wildfire in South and Southeast Asia.
So, Tablighi Jamaat took one country at a time starting from the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where it held the fateful four-day Conference where 16,000 Islamic preachers gathered between February 27 and March 1 making Malaysia the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia.
Then they decided to hold an Ijtema in Lahore’s Raiwind in Pakistan, and finally came the turn of the “Secular” State of India when Tablighi Jamaat decided to huddle 8,000 preachers in the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in the Nizamuddin area of South Delhi- the global center for Tablighi Network.
Why in the world the Muslims of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates- the countries where Islam originated do not believe, “Corona humare Quran se nikla hai (Corona has emanated out of out holy Quran)”, while their self-acclaimed compatriots in South Asia, especially the “Secular” State of India affirm this firmly?
A Muslim activist in India claims #CoronavirusOutbreakIndia will not harm Muslims as the word #Corona comes from the #Quran. ”The virus will not affect Muslims; it's for other people.”
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) March 20, 2020
The answer lies in the fact that the 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 more you are away from the Arab world, the more radical you have to be because, at the end of the day, the Muslim world is such that a “good” Muslim has to be the one who adheres to Arab culture and practices the literal version of Islam exported by Saudi Arabia.
But then it is not easy to put the Arab practices into effect in a country like, say India, where women are neither flogged with lashes for getting raped, nor are they jailed if they demand the right to drive a car. What then fills the space for Arabisation? Radicalism and orthodoxy of the kind that Tablighi Jamaat has been professing even if it means Super Spreaders spreading the Wuhan infection in every corner of the country.
And now that Prime Minister Modi, being the Hindu Nationalist that he is, has also abolished Instant Triple Talaq- the biggest instrument of subjugating Muslim women coming from West Asia, which further detaches the radical Indian Islamist from the Arab world.
This zealousness is what compelled the ‘series’ to stay put at Shaheen Bagh even when they could see a severe Pandemic coming their way, and the faithful in Pakistan to beat up policemen when the latter stopped Friday prayers in order to break the chain of the spread of Coronavirus.
It is also this zealousness and a desperation to prove faithfulness that leads to a radical Islamist preacher wishing death upon 50 crore Indians- his countrymen, only in order to show his loyalty to the Arab world.
What this fetish with falling in line with the Arab culture does is create a bunch of paranoid wannabes who post outrageous TikTok videos in which they claim that the Coronavirus is their God’s NRC.
Indian Muslims welcoming #coronavirus to India as they flaunt their supposed invincibility to #CoronaVirus because they say ”Allah is protecting them” while he wipes out ’Kaafirs’ (none-Muslims) pic.twitter.com/dTTSL8OA3b
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) April 1, 2020
But then the Coronavirus Pandemic is just an example of what the zealousness of a fresh convert can do, and it is the same zealousness which led to General Muhammad Zia Ul Haq converting Pakistan into a country if Islamist fanatics.
The fact remains that when a faithful from the Indian Subcontinent is called “al Hindi” in the Gulf, it creates a huge identity vacuum. Saudi Arabia refuses to recognize Indian Muslims and other Indians as separate cultures, which further enrages the radical Islamists in the Subcontinent.
This is the reason why you can see Islamist mobs affirming “Tera mera rishta kya? La ilaha illallah (there is no God, except Allah)”, when the Indian State decides to help out persecuted religious minorities, but you would never witness such paranoia in West Asia.
West Asia and other parts of the Muslim world that got Islamised way before the religion took grip of India continue to look down upon their Indian counterparts. This is also why the supremacist Taliban chooses a Kerala-based PFI activist-turned Islamic State terrorist to blow himself to smithereens for killing Afghan Sikhs.
In fact, the Muslim world seems settled only in the supremacist West Asia which doesn’t have to prove its faith, and thus even in European countries like France there is palpable Islamist zealousness. Isn’t it also common human psychology that one who is late in joining a group has to constantly prove his loyalties?
If today, Coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated in India, Pakistan and Malaysia due to Islamism but the numbers have not risen in West Asia, with the only exception of Iran, blame the zealousness of the fresh convert for it. The zealousness which places Islamist orthodoxy above everything- even life.