Indonesia stops mammoth tabligh event over virus fears

Foreign participants heading to Indonesia to attend a mammoth tabligh gathering seen in transit at KLIA on March 17, 2020. (Facebook pic)

JAKARTA: A tabligh rally that is drawing thousands of people to Indonesia has been stopped amid fears that it could help spread the new coronavirus, an official said.

For days, authorities had been trying to persuade Ijtima Asia, part of the global Tablighi Jama’at movement of evangelical Muslims, to halt the event at Gowa near the city of Makassar in South Sulawesi province, after a similar event in Malaysia led to hundreds of infections.

“Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), Ijtima finally agreed to postpone/cancel,” the head of Gowa regency, Adnan Purichta Ichsan, posted on social media.

He added that participants already there would be isolated while they make arrangements to leave Gowa.

More than 8,500 people from across Indonesia, Asia and the Middle East had converged on the town.

Reuters was unable to reach organisers for comment.

The Tablighi Jama’at movement behind the gathering in Indonesia hosted an event in Malaysia from Feb 27 to March 1 that drew 16,000 followers and led to more than 500 coronavirus infections.

Photos and videos of the Indonesian gathering posted on social media showed huge crowds of men sitting tightly together in a huge tent.

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