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COVID19: Important not to demonise any community or drive them underground

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(PTI File Photo)

Sanjay Hegde

A Parsi Client messaged me, enquiring about my health. He knew I lived in Nizamuddin and he remembered that it was rather close to the Dargah. I told him that according to Google Earth, I was around 700 metres away from the Markaz, which was a different institution altogether. I then explained to him that it was not the Dargah but the Markaz, where the COVID19 outbreak happened.


I then went on to explain the difference between the two different types of Islam, in the two spots which are barely 50 meters from each other, but whose followers rarely step into the other’s premises. By way of analogy I explain that the Dargah fellows were like Catholics with qawali choirs and venerated saints like Auliya. The Markazis are Protestants who huddle together and look down on everyone else.

Most importantly while the Dargah walas welcome all and sundry who seek the saint’s intercession for their wishes, the Markazis only preach to Muslims. The Markazis seek to deepen the faith of the faithful, they do not seek to widen the net outwards.  The Dargah walas do not mind what faith you follow, as long as you respect the Saint and treat him as a venerated elder, who is a friend of the Almighty. This all embracing philosophy is looked down upon by the Markazis, who say the Dargah itself is un-Islamic and encouraging grave worship.

The Markazis are not very popular among most Muslims. Nobody likes angry phoophas asking you to be more religious, more prayerful and more puritanical. These guys turn up at Nizamuddin Markaz on 40-day retreats, away from wives, jobs and normal life, ready to go wherever they are assigned to preach to Muslims. At the Markaz, they are sorted into groups and sent to some mosques in some part of the country, which is supposed to host the group. To avoid their visitations, many mosque committees have put up signs that no one can sleep in the mosque between night and early morning prayers. This seeks to deter the Markazis from choosing that particular mosque for their ministrations.

To sum up, the Markaz is the centre of a group of rather fervent Sunni Muslims, whom most ordinary Muslims seek to avoid. To attribute their sins to all Muslims is stretching the logic a bit too far. Most importantly, in the times of COVID-19, it is important not to demonise any community, or drive them underground, because we cannot afford to drive the virus into society’s underbelly. If we do so, we do it to our own peril and to the peril of all around us including friends and family. The virus has taken and will take a toll on our community health and wealth. Let it not take a further toll on our social health as well. We are all in this together. Jai Hind.

(The author is a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court . Views expressed are personal)