2000 Foreign Tablighi Jamaat Members Banned from India. And the Internet is Back to Spewing Hate Against Muslims


2000 Foreign Tablighi Jamaat Members Banned from India. And the Internet is Back to Spewing Hate Against Muslims

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The Tablighi Jamaat congregation that became the subject of many a debate in April is once again in the news, as reports emerge of the Ministry of Home Affairs blacklisting over 2,000 foreigners belonging to the religious organisation from entering India for the next 10 years. The Nizamuddin Markaz, where the religious congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat was held, had become one of the first hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic in India, and its association with the Muslim sect led to communal flavour being added to discussions about the virus.

Now, the MHA has taken the move to ban the entry of 2,550 foreign members of the Tablighi Jamaat, who had been found to have flouted visa norms by staying in mosques and religious places during the early days of India’s nationwide lockdown. Most of these members would have entered India on a tourist visa, but now that they are on the MHA’s blacklist, their return to India is off the table for at least the next 10 years.

Recently, the conversation surrounding the Tablighi Jamaat seemed to have subsided, after many sections of the media spent most of April trying to assign the blame for the coronavirus outbreak in India squarely on the attendees of the congregation, even as other hotspots continued to develop in other parts of the country. However, the bias continues, as this recent video of Kanpur medical college principal calling Tablighis terrorists went viral.

The foreign members of Tablighi Jamaat who have been blacklisted by the MHA hail from nations like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Sudan, Singapore, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, the US, Syria, Belgium, Brazil, Australia, and Afghanistan.

The negative perception of the Tablighi Jamaat, which was created by the media and quickly found takers among the Indian public, has led to some greeting this news with jubilation.

However, not everyone was delighted by the MHA’s move. Some called it symptomatic of the rising intolerance toward Muslims in India. To them, the Tablighi Jamaat was just a convenient scapegoat while other hotspots were not vilified in the same way.

The Tablighi Jamaat issue has been raked up numerous times during the pandemic. It remains to be seen whether this is the last time.