According to a CBC report in Canada: “A group of Ontario imams and Islamic scholars is fighting an uphill battle to convince management at a handful of Toronto-area mosques to completely shutter their doors. They say that while a majority of mosques are closed….a few insist on remaining open. The imams believe the refusal to close the mosques exposes an allegiance to certain foreign scholars not heeding the calls.” This issue is beyond the Muslim community and there is no indication that it is being treated as such.
On a global scale, the battle continues within Islam on whether to heed the orders and warnings about the coronavirus and practice social distancing, or to listen to Islamic clerics who insist on continuing prayers amid the coronavirus outbreak, and die a martyr if that is Allah’s will. Case in point: in a video that went viral, devoted Muslim Jafar Ghafouri was shown licking the metal gating of a shrine, saying “I am eating the virus to reassure you and keep you coming to the mausoleum”. Another worhipper said: “Stop playing with people’s beliefs, coronavirus is nothing in the Shia shrines,” while yet another declared “I am licking this and I don’t care what happens.”
The risky behavior does not stop in Iran. Pakistan was reported to be the coronavirus super-spreader to the entire Muslim world, precisely because of the influence of determined Muslim clerics and an increasingly popular Islamic revival group called Tablighi Jamaat, which Pew Research Center describes as one of the largest faith-based movements in the world. According to an article in Haaretz:
The Tableeghi Jamaat’s reluctance to cite an infectious virus as cause for the disbandment is rooted in its regressive ideology, whose exponents have ranged from militant jihadists to radical preachers to Islamic televangelists unleashing a perilous blend of unscientific fantasies and bigoted fallacies. For these ideologues, cancelling congregational prayers owing to an infectious disease is synonymous with repudiating Allah’s command.
But it isn’t just the “Muslim world” at risk. The danger of spreading coronavirus transcends the borders of Islamic countries and communities which are adherent to the instructions of their clerics. Clerics who spew such fallacies like: coronavirus is Allah’s revenge upon ‘disbelievers’, that Muslims are immune to the virus, and even if they die, well…..they die a shahid (martyr). In Islam, to die a martyr is the greatest honor which carries superior rewards in the afterlife.
Gaza’s first reported cases of coronavirus involved people who attended a Tablighi Ijtema (affiliated with Tablighi Jamaat) conference “alongside 250,000 Muslims in Pakistan last month that went ahead contrary to government advice.”
Now, in the time of coronavirus outbreak, they have increased their gatherings on the ground. Thousands of Indian Muslims are creating mayhem and refusing to go home in order to accomplish their ends. Their outlandish actions at the time of this deadly outbreak are plunging India into uncertainty. These demonstrations are simply spoiling the efforts of the government, which are widely supported by the Indian public, to contain the virus.
And right across the American northern border in Canada, imams who have complied with social distancing are concerned that some of their coreligionist leaders are non-compliant and putting Canadians at risk. These responsible imams “believe the refusal to close the mosques exposes an allegiance to certain foreign scholars not heeding the calls, and in the process endangering Canadian lives.” Although CBC reported that this “group of Ontario imams and Islamic scholars is fighting an uphill battle to convince management at a handful of Toronto-area mosques to completely shutter their doors”, the battle should not be left to Imams but to Canadian authorities. It is no secret that foreign influences from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Territories have long been a big problem across Western countries, from their propaganda and funding to an exhaustive range of theological influences; and now, coronavirus. In multicultural Canada where political correctness– particularly offending Muslims–is top priority, it now remains to be seen what action Toronto authorities (and other Western cities which may be facing the same dilemma) will take in light of this threat to the health of all communities.
Christine Douglass-Williams is an international award winning broadcast journalist, news analyst, and author of two books: The Challenge of Modernizing Islam (Encounter Books) and Fired by the Government of Canada for Criticizing Islam (The Center for Security Policy). She’s also a former Federal government appointee to Canada’s office of Religious Freedoms, and to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation as a director. She is a regular writer for Jihad Watch and Associate Editor to FrontPage Magazine.