Ziya Us Salam is a journalist and author. Presently the associate editor of Frontline, he has been associated with the Hindu for over two decades. His latest book, Inside the Tablighi Jamaat, delves into the religious organisation accused by the governing establishment and the mainstream media of spreading “corona jihad” in India.
In this conversation with Newslaundry’s Mehraj D Lone, Ziya begins by explaining the roots of the Jamaat, which is arguably India’s largest Muslim organisation. Its members were not intellectuals, he says, but poor, illiterate peasants who were barely able to recite a few verses from the Quran.
Describing the Jamaat’s spiritual and ritualistic aspects, he says, “They never encourage youngsters, or senior members who come to them, to under the Quran.” In the context of his own experience with the organisation, Ziya says it rejected his proposal to distribute the meaning of the Quran in English, Hindi and Urdu, since the Jamaat focuses on reading the Quran to learn about the afterlife, he says, not to understand it.
Will the recent backlash and allegations of “spreading Covid” change the Jamaat’s refusal to take a political stand? They live in a “social, political vacuum,” Ziya replies. “I don’t think they will change with Covid. They did not speak in 1992, they did not speak in 2002, they didn’t speak up in 2013. There is no likelihood that the Tablighi Jamaat will undergo any major change post Covid in 2020.”
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