- Sonya Sarkarfreelance journalist
- New Delhi, India
Mohammad Ibrahim, a resident of the lower middle class Mangolpuri district in New Delhi, never got the covert-19 virus, but was forced to spend 41 days in quarantine.
Ibrahim is a member of the Tabligi Jamaat Islamic missionary movement, which at times raises suspicion from the Indian authorities. On March 31, Ibrahim voluntarily informed the police of the arrival of seven Indonesians at his local mosque. “The police accused me of bringing people from different countries to spread the infection in India,” he says.
More than 3,000 Tabliga Jamaat members subsequently spent more than 40 days in quarantine, and government authorities refused to fire them.1 The Indian government indicted the killing of Tablighi chief Jamaat Muhammad Saad Kandhalvi when at least six of the group died from infection after participating in a March event before closing across the country2.
201 million Muslim citizens of India are now accused of an outbreak in this country. In the southern Indian state of Karnataka, two Muslim men were reportedly beaten and forced to kneel down and apologize for “spreading the virus.” 3 In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Muslim vegetable traders were allegedly denied the opportunity to sell their goods by the locals, who accused them of being members of Tablighi Jamaat. In another northern state, Himachal Pradesh, a Muslim meat seller committed suicide after his neighbors returned from quarantine to a social boycott. He had a negative result for coronavirus.
During press briefings, Love Agarwal, a joint secretary of the Ministry of Health and Welfare of India, emphasized the role of Tabliga Jamaat in the spread of coronavirus 6, although a government spokesman said Bmj that India “does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion.”
For several miles in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, the community of Muhammad Aman was also called the “carrier” of the infection. Aman is one of the 900,000 members of the Shiite Hazara tribe in Pakistan (most Pakistanis are of Sunni origin). He says they have been targeted by government agencies and individuals after some Shiite Khazars returning from trips to Iran gave a positive result for Covid-19.
In March, at least 1,500 Hazaras returning from Iran were subsequently isolated, while other citizens returning from Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as non-Khazar businessmen and tourists returning from Iran, were not. “In some cases, non-Hazaras who came from other countries had the right to enter without a basic examination,” says Jaffer Mirza from the London Center for Shiite Academic Research.
Sakib Khan Kakar, Quetta’s additional deputy commissioner who was in charge of the quarantine centers, said Bmj“There was no discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds.”
Discrimination Without Borders
In Cambodia, Buddhists blame Muslims. In Israel, Jews blame the Arabs. Fear and misunderstanding fuel hatred all over the world – and this is detrimental to the fight against the pandemic.
In South Korea, members of the Church of Jesus Sinchonjee, which fundamentalist Protestants called “heretical,” are being tested after the meeting became the center of the country’s largest outbreak in February7. But it is amazing how discrimination played a role before the outbreak.
“Church members refrained from testing to avoid discrimination,” says Willy Fotr, executive director of the International Human Rights Organization without Borders. “It was bad for both them and public health.”
“When people with prejudices are worried and feel that they cannot control a terrible threat, such as a pandemic, they turn to the tried and true tactics of the scapegoat of ordinary suspects: religious minorities and other persecuted communities,” says Michael Kugelman, deputy director of Asian programs at the Wilson Center, US think tank.
This is not new. Jews were blamed during the epidemics of black death in Europe in the 14th century. In 1545, religious dissidents in Geneva were blamed for the outbreak of the plague.
In both India and Pakistan, the pandemic has exacerbated and intensified long-standing splits, Kugelman says, hampering retaliation against covid-19.
“The original cluster [Tablighi Jamaat] was misplaced, leading to a pandemic, ”says Srinivas T. Rajkumar, Secretary General of the Association of Resident Physicians of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Indian doctor said Bmj under conditions of anonymity, the government emphasizes that tracking contacts of people associated with Tablighi Jamaat, while in other cases, tracking was not carried out with the same intensity.
Epidemiologist Jayaprakash Mouiil says targeting a community in a pandemic “sets a bad precedent” for the public health system. At least one public hospital in the western state of Gujarat has isolated Muslim patients with 19 Hindu disease from Hindus, claiming that it obeys local government orders and for the safety of both sides. Abdullah Azmi, a doctor at a state hospital in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, told Bmj about a campaign on social networks against a Muslim doctor who took a sick patient Tabliga Jamaat to his hospital.
According to Yasin Nadir, an activist from Balochistan who defends the rights of Shiite Hazaras, residents in Pakistan opposed a quarantine center that the government intended to build for Khazar patients set up in a non-Azar district. He said Bmj that another quarantine center for the Hazaras was burned down by the locals.
It is known that among the “Hey crown” bells, 275 Hazaras contracted the virus. Many public and private hospitals refuse to treat them. Quetta Civil Hospital asked Hazara staff, including doctors, not to come to work 9. Aman says Hazara employees at some private and public hospitals and state-owned banks were forced to go on vacation, while their non-Hazara colleagues were allowed to work, adding that the police and water and sanitation departments also asked their employees from Khazara to go on vacation.
Misinformation – Trigger
It is difficult to resist centuries-old stigma, but government agencies, the media and social networks can help rekindle or extinguish fervor.
Futre says media stories debunking some myths about religious communities can help. “Another step could be raising awareness among human rights non-governmental organizations and scholars in the field of religious studies both domestically and abroad, because they are non-partisan. Also take to court those who demonize minorities with fake news, ”he said.
However, exposure on social networks is harder to do, as the hashtag #coronajihad and the term “Quran-e-virus” regularly appear among Indian Twitter users. WhatsApp groups are dominated by rumors and anti-Muslim rhetoric. In Pakistan, phrases such as “Shiite virus” and “Shiites bring viruses to Pakistan” are distributed through WhatsApp.
In April, the South Asian public technology organization Equality Labs wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister of India, the Director General of the World Health Organization and Facebook and Twitter executives asking them to help stop the spread of Islamophobia. hate speech and misinformation related to Covid 19.11
There is evidence that such efforts can help. “The disinformation associated with Covid-19 treatment began to decrease gradually after mid-March,” said Joeyjit Pal, an associate professor of information at the University of Michigan, who studied disinformation related to Covid in India.
“This can be partially explained by the fact that key leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, have publicly stated that there is no real cure for covid 19,” he says. “When such information comes from a reliable source, it carries weight.” He encourages public figures to do the same with regard to religion.
But this may not be enough. On April 19, Modi tweeted: “Covid-19 does not see race, religion, skin color, caste, religion, language or border before striking. Our response and conduct after this should give priority to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together. ”
Fautre, however, says such claims are useless for the scapegoat religions. “He should have said that Tabligi Jamaat’s accusation of negligence and responsibility for the rapid spread of Covid-19 is unfounded. He couldn’t do it because it’s unprofitable from the point of view of the elections, and maintaining an ambiguous position allows him to benefit from the existing anti-Muslim prejudices. ”
Ordered, not reviewed.
Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ’s policy regarding the declaration of interests, and I do not have any relevant interests to declare.
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