Rana Ayyub claims to be disturbed by the moral crisis of her unfortunate country. She concludes an article published in Washington Post saying “my country and its leaders force me to focus on prejudice yet again, revealing an acute and disturbing crisis of morality.” (Emphasis added) Ms. Ayyub had earlier declared India a morally corrupt nation on twitter. She seems to be in a habit of casting her disagreements in moral terminology. It would be worthwhile to examine the moral standards and logical acuity someone taking such a high moral ground herself adheres to. For this purpose, I am using only one article written by her and checking how fair or otherwise is she in reporting and interpreting incidents. I wanted to avoid writing on any issues related to Tablighi Jamaat event and its fallout any more. The references here to these incidents are only to show Ms. Ayyub’s coloured vision.
In the article pronouncing judgement on India in its very title “Islamophobia taints India’s response to the coronavirus” Ms. Ayyub deliberately distorts and hides facts to coverup Tablighi Jamaat. She claims that the Jamaat held it event “from March 8-10, days before India declared a health emergency and called for a national lockdown.” Everyone knows by this time that she is making a wrong claim. (1) The event with thousands of participants was held from March 13-15, and not from March 8-10. (2) The Delhi government orders not to congregate more than 200 people were in force from March 13, a ban on all religious gatherings of more than 50 was declared on 16th March, and another ban reducing the numbers to 20 was in force from March 19. (3) Complete lockdown of the country was in force from 24th March. (4) The head of Jamaat Maulana Saad was holding discourses in congregations of thousands till 26th March 2020. Therefore, one has to ask whether Ms. Ayyub is ignorant of all these facts or is she deliberately lying? Lying in an international newspaper to malign a whole nation, in order to coverup crimes of a preferred religious organisation can not be called a very high moral principle.
Then she claims that “virtually overnight, Muslims became the sole culprits responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in India”. As we all know it never happened. No responsible leader, opinion maker or media house ever claimed that. All the papers reported was the percentage of cases linked with Tablighi Jamaat event, and not to Muslims. The percentage the government claimed was 42%, and it was based on cases discovered in many states, majority of them not rules by BJP. Ms. Ayyub never sees any moral problem in this kind of false exaggeration when maligning India is the going project.
Ms. Ayyub states that “various religious groups held temple gatherings across India during the same period of time, putting many lives at risk”. And also claims that no one minded that (“never mind”). Each one of these gatherings were roundly criticised and condemned and not a single commentator worth his salt came forward to defend them. None of the temples took an arrogant attitude of never stopping their gathering and violating the government orders. While the entire so-called liberal section of Indian opinion makers worked overtime to either defend the Jamaat or obfuscate the issue, and the Jamaat remained as arrogant as always in insisting on congregating in mosques. There is no parallel between these cases and the Jamaat incident.
Then the global opinion maker of Washington Post jumps to the case of an individual who held a funeral feast on 20th March, in Madhya Pradesh. The MP government announced lockdown only on 23rd March, a day before the national lockdown announcement. The man committed an irresponsible act, but at that time there was no ban on gatherings in MP. The expectations of awareness and sensitivity from an individual restaurant waiter and a global religious organisation like Jamaat differ. And, again, no one defended the man’s act. Ms. Ayyub’s argument can be spelled out as follows: A Hindu individual who held a funeral feast before lockdown was announced in his area of residence was not criticised. The Jamaat, a Muslim organisation, was criticised. Therefore, India is tainted by Islamophobia and is in moral crisis. With available facts, in such arguments either morality (fairness is a moral principle) dies or intellect (reasoning is faulty) dies. Ms. Ayyub can decide which.
Misreporting on personal acts
Ms. Ayyub presents the WhatApp comment of an individual in her society as a bias against Muslims in corona-spread. The comment is about Modi’s call for “bang and applaud”, in her own word. But does not share what message she shared on the same WhatsApp group to invoke the response she reports here. Looking at what she has written my guess (only guess) is that she herself objected to the noise made by clapping and banging plates. The man responded by saying that they are making noise only on one day, azaan noise is being tolerated every day. It might be a bad comment, but has got nothing like blaming Muslims for coronavirus. And the objectionable part of the comment seems to be directed to her own high-handed intolerance of others people’s actions.
Another personal experience she reports is her comment on India: She twitted “What is left for a virus to kill in a morally corrupt nation.” In her self-righteousness she even now cannot notice that she is condemning a whole nation. Her explanation of this being directed to leaders etc. is patently unacceptable, as nothing in the comment suggests that. And what is there to complaint if a nation blamed for complete moral corruption retaliates? If it is really morally as corrupt as she declared, she should have expected it; if it is not so corrupt, it has the right to defend itself. She wants all the stones in her own possession to throw at others, if others respond in the same manner, she gets morally disturbed! Ms. Ayyub seems to be blissfully ignorant of the age old, perhaps the first, moral principle almost all cultures invoked: do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to you. She wants to attack others right and left but is very heart when paid in the same coins.
Biased reporting of social media
She declares India to be in acute moral crisis on the basis of what trended on Twitter. Yes, #CoronaJihad etc. trended, and many TV channels and people on Facebook and Twitter blamed entire Muslim community. But she forgets that in this social media storm there was equal force from the other side, people on these very same platforms were also condemning such attempts and were defending not only the Muslim community, but even the criminal act of Tablighi Jamaat, as she is defending in the article under consideration. And these forces in the social media are also Indians. She remembers one side, and ignores the other. Morally upright?
Suicide by a harassed man
Ms. Ayyub used a story from News18 to claim that “a Muslim man committed suicide after members of his village socially boycotted him for allegedly being in touch with members of the Muslim congregation in Delhi”. But forgets that the same story also states: “However, the SHO told PTI that the matter was being investigated whether he was discriminated against or socially boycotted by villagers.
I have sent an ASI on the spot. So far, no issue of social boycott or discrimination has come to the fore. I will be able to say anything in detail about this at around 5 pm after the ASI’s return,” He added.”
There was also a story in several national dailies that a Hindu man was shot dead because he blamed Tablighi Jamaat for helping coconavirus spread. This cherry picking is natural for her, because her morally upright project is to blame India of Islamophobia, not pointing out what could be the reasons behind criticism of some Muslims and Islamic organisations in India.
The Jamaat: acts and intentions
Someone who invokes morality so frequently should be aware that intentions behind an act and its heinousness play an important role in blame it attracts. The heinousness of Jamaat acts can be gauged from the threat of life they pose to people and their scale. The Jamaat is held responsible for significant contribution to coronavirus not only in India but also in Indonesia, Malesia and Pakistan.
I personally believe that in India it angered people so much because of its intentions, which the moral drummers like Ms. Ayyub are not even paying any attention to. By intentions I don’t mean that Tablighis wanted to deliberately infect themselves to infect others. No, not at all. By intentions I mean that their congregations were not by chance, by mistake or because of ignorance. They were motivated by an arrogant religious stance, that stance can be expressed somewhat like this: ‘my Allah’s farmaan is above all humanitarian concerns and all government rules. If my Allah wants me to go to mosque I will continued praying in the mosque’. Under this theological position their head continued his congregations and lectures till 26th Match 2020. An example of what the Head of Tablighi Jamaat says can be heard here. One can ignore the anchor’s analysis and pay attention only to what the maulana says. There are several videos like this. They prove beyond doubt that the Jamaat congregations were not accidental, inadvertent mistakes. They were deliberate religious gatherings to violate government orders motivated by reasons of faith. The intention is clear in what the Maulana says. I am not concerned about his theory of why Allah sends azaab and how you can appease Allah to take that back. What is of interest here is the complete unconcern for peoples’ lives and governments’ directives. This angered people.
Ms. Ayyub takes no notice of this, simply because it does not serve her purpose of showing Islamophobia in India. A balanced view of the whole issue can be seen here and here. And in many more articles written by both Hindu and Muslim citizens of India.
All this shows the moral standards of fairness and intellectual acuity of the global opinion maker journalist(?) of Washington Post. And on top of all this she has the gall to declare a whole nation “revealing an acute and disturbing crisis of morality”. And there is a news paper with world wide reputation that publishes such bundle of half-truths and intellectually challenged conclusions. We are supposed to take heed of this kind of biased writing.
No one is claiming that India is a morally perfect society and that the people behaved in an exemplary manner regarding Jamaat issue. But the society is fighting against two extremes on this issue. One is branding every Muslim a deliberate virus spreading agent and the other is that the Jamaat issue is a fault of everyone else but not of the Jamaat. If we want to find our way in this confusion, we have to subject writings of likes of Ms. Ayyub to rigorous scrutiny. And have to see through the web of half-lies and biased analysis. To blame the whole nation on the basis of mindless junk floating in the social media is highly irresponsible act. But what else can you expect from someone adapt at barbed and poisonous tweets? My advice to Ms. Ayyub would be ‘physician heal thyself’.
And a question for all of us: does equal respect and concern for well being of all necessarily demand ignoring some uncomfortable truths?
7th April 2020