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How Muslim clerics in Dharavi are busting Covid myths to push community to vaccinate

New Delhi: As Covid-19 began to grip countries after countries in early 2020, unprecedented measures were being taken around the world. While lockdowns, social distancing and quarantines were initial measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, pharma companies began to work rapidly on a Covid vaccine, as governments worked hard to ensure that large to avoid large-scale public outbursts.

Every country had its own challenge, and India had to keep its large population under lockdown during this global pandemic.

With hot spots here and there in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, all eyes were on Dharavi – a slum area in Mumbai with a high-density population that shared civic amenities such as public toilets.

But Dharavi managed to control the virus.

As the “Dharavi Model” gained worldwide fame, a story of how a group of Muslim clerics led the community to move towards quarantine centers and vacillated in the form of hysteria and misinformation.

There was no relaxation in any religious gathering to fight against Kovid. During this period Ramadan was at its peak in 2020, so was the pandemic. Muslims were not able to go to mosques to offer their regular prayers.

With isolation and social media as a regular tool to pass the time, paranoia broke out in Dharavi’s Muslim community, with murmurs of lockdown imposed by the current government preventing Muslims from performing their religious duties.

Dispelling this taboo and other misinformation, a group of Muslim clerics from Dharavi took on the task of informing and educating the population through various means. Supported by the Bhamla Foundation, a small group of Muslim clerics called Maulvis were tasked with dispelling “misconceptions propagated by certain political parties”.

Asif Bhamla, founder of Bhamla Foundation, told ABP News, “The challenge was to bring the infected people to the quarantine center first and this can happen only if leaders within the community have helped.”

He said: “Dharavi has many mosques and the influence of local clerics. With the mass prayer being closed, these clerics took the responsibility of running door-to-door campaigns to reach out to the community and spread awareness.”

After the quarantine challenge came the big challenge of getting the people of the Muslim community vaccinated.

Meraj Hussain, CEO of Bhamla Foundation, said people in Dharavi were misled into thinking that the vaccination campaign was against the minority population.

“I have videos where they (Muslims) announced that they will not take shots at all. Adults were scared and thought that they would die after being vaccinated,” he said.

This fear was exposed by the clerics, who were roaming in Dharavi spreading the correct information. People listened to him as he not only talked about the scientific measures involved in the vaccination process but also cited Islamic hadith to develop faith in the ongoing process.

Maulana Khalid Sheikh of Jama Masjid in Dharavi said, “The clerics were first shown a video on the efficacy and procedure of the Covid vaccines. On being satisfied, we went from house to house and told about its importance.

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