After the tabligh gathering in Kuala Lumpur from 27 February to 1 March that had led to the second wave of COVID-19 in Malaysia, another similar gathering that involves thousands of people was seen in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
About two-thirds of Malaysia’s 790 confirmed cases are related to the four-day tabligh gathering in Malaysia which had attracted 16,000 attendees.
As for the event in Sulawesi, Indonesia, there were an estimated of 8,695 attendees, including followers from Malaysia, Thailand, Arabia, India, and the Philippines.
Organisers and regional officials said the event in the world’s fourth most populous nation had begun, although the regional police chief mentioned that he was making a last-ditch effort to persuade organisers to call it off.
One of the organisers, Mustari Bahranuddin, told the press that they are more afraid of God when he was asked about the risk of participants spreading the COVID-19 virus at the Indonesian event.
“We are more afraid of God. Because everyone’s human, we fear illnesses, death, but there’s something more to the body, which is our soul,” said Mr Bahranuddin.
According to Reuters, both gatherings are organised by the group Tablighi Jama’at, a global movement of evangelical Muslims that promote proselytising, known as dakwah.
However, MR Bahranuddin said that the Indonesian and Malaysian meetings had been organised by different groups. Even so, he added, “Our purpose is one, even if the name changes, which is how we take religion to other people.”
The same social media accounts were used to promote both events. One Facebook account posted a photograph of a prominent Indian Tablighi cleric, Sheikh Maulana Ibrahim Dewla, leaving Kuala Lumpur airport on Tuesday (17 March) for the Indonesia event.
To make the situation even more worrying, the organisers rejected a formal request from the authorities to postpone the tabligh gathering in Gowa in Indonesia’s province in South Sulawesi. The regional official, Arifuddin Saeni, stated that with the number of attendees that had already assembled in Gowa, it would be difficult to call the event off.
Organisers in Indonesia were checking the attendees’ temperatures as a precaution, Mr Bahranuddin added. Mr Saeni said health officials had visited the site and asked to monitor participants.
As of Wednesday (18 March), there are 227 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia along with 19 deaths. Even with 260 million people residing in the country, only 1,255 tests were performed by Tuesday.