The devotees gathered despite fears that their meeting could fuel the spread of the virus. <small> Cover image via Aalmi Tablighi Shura Elders/Facebook/Free Malaysia Today Hishamuddin Ahmad Zaki/Facebook </small>
While countries around the world are doing everything they can to help contain the COVID-19 situation, thousands of Muslim pilgrims from across Asia gathered in Indonesia on Wednesday, 18 March
They gathered for a four-day assembly called <i>Ijtima Dunia Zona Asia 2020</i>, or 'World Ijtima Asia Zone 2020', which was organised by <i></i>Tablighi Jamaat<i>.</i>
The attendees in Indonesia reportedly ignored official warnings about fears that their meeting could fuel the spread of the virus.
According to CNA, local police tried to persuade organisers to call off the event but their advice went unheeded as thousands had already gathered in Gowa, South Sulawesi.
Tabligh Jamaat is the same Muslim missionary movement whose assembly at the Sri Petaling Jamek Mosque in late February has resulted in 513 positive cases out of the over 14,5000 Malaysians who had attended the event.
“We are more afraid of God,” one of the organisers reportedly said when asked about the risk of participants spreading the coronavirus
<b></b>"Because everyone's human, we fear illnesses, death,"<b></b> organising committee member Mustari Bahranuddin told Reuters, "But there's something more to the body, which is our soul."
It was estimated by a Gowa regional official, Arifuddin Saeni, that 8,695 people had assembled in Gowa yesterday night, and he added that the numbers would make it difficult to halt proceedings.
“They are still coming,” he said. “There are people from Thailand, Arabia, India, and the Philippines.”
According to Reuters, images on social media accounts showed men setting up huge tents at the event site with participants describing themselves as having arrived early to offer help to prepare for the event.
Some of the promotional material for the event that Reuters reported seeing online, read, “The pleasure of living in this world is only a little, compared to the afterlife.”
Out of the thousands there, it was reported that some 83 Malaysians also travelled to attend the tabligh assembly
According to Malaysiakini, an organising commitee member of the event had recorded the attendance of 411 foreign nationals from nine countries, including 83 from Malaysia.
A Malaysian Embassy spokesmen in Jakarta told Bernama yesterday that although the embassy had issued an order banning Malaysians from attending the programme, they still came.
“We do not have the exact figure of Malaysians attending the event, but we are trying to locate them,” he said.
In a latest report by Malaysiakini, the administrative head of Gowa, Adnan Purichta Ichsan, had announced that organisers had “finally agreed” late last night to postpone the event.
Under the Restriction of Movement Order, this would mean the Malaysian participants would have to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine upon returning to the country.
The tabligh gathering in Malaysia held from 27 February to 1 March was attended by some 16,000 followers from several countries:
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