The world goes via a interval of unprecedented instability, misery and uncertainty. The novel coronavirus pandemic, and the menace posed by it to the socioeconomic material of countries, pushed many governments world wide into an existential disaster and compelled them to modify to survival mode. Populist politicians in these international locations, who failed to reply to this public well being disaster swiftly and effectively, resorted to scapegoating minority communities, particularly Muslims, to justify their shortcomings.
This has put hundreds of thousands of individuals, who have been subjected to discrimination, abuse and oppression even earlier than the beginning of the pandemic, in a bind. In lots of international locations world wide underprivileged Muslims are actually dealing with not solely a pandemic that’s threatening their lives and livelihoods, but in addition a spike in institutionalised Islamophobia.
In India, for the reason that emergence of COVID-19, members of the nation’s 200 million-strong Muslim neighborhood have repeatedly been accused of being “super spreaders” of coronavirus each by the media and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Social gathering (BJP).
In late March, after a Muslim spiritual gathering in New Delhi allegedly led to an increase within the variety of coronavirus circumstances within the metropolis, a politician from the BJP dubbed the gathering “corona terrorism“, and referred to as for Muslims who attend mosques amid the pandemic to be “punished like terrorists”. Because of this, “corona jihad” turned a trending matter on social media and lots of Muslims, together with volunteers distributing reduction materials, confronted bodily and verbal assaults. A BJP legislator from the state of Uttar Pradesh, in the meantime, referred to as for a boycott of Muslim distributors, accusing them of “infecting vegetables with saliva“.
The Indian media additionally contributed to the stigmatisation of Muslims in the course of the pandemic. As politicians continued their efforts accountable the speedy unfold of the virus within the nation on Muslims, pro-government media organisations ran reveals and revealed experiences that assist this unfounded accusation. Because of this, Muslims who had only some months in the past survived a pogrom in New Delhi discovered themselves with an excellent greater goal on their backs.
India’s authorities handled the coronavirus pandemic as a possibility to double down on its current Islamophobic insurance policies. For the reason that begin of this public well being emergency, it not solely used Muslims as a scapegoat to divert consideration from the shortcomings of its coronavirus response, but in addition managed to deepen the Hindu majority’s current prejudices about this neighborhood.
In neighbouring Sri Lanka, the federal government selected to make use of the pandemic as an excuse to stigmatise Muslims and pander to Islamophobia.
Sri Lanka is an island nation with a vibrant multireligious and multi-ethnic heritage. However Islamophobic propaganda persistently unfold by the media and politicians through the years, coupled with assaults by radical Muslim teams in Sri Lanka and the mainstreaming of Islamophobia the world over, led to the marginalisation of Muslims within the nation. Muslims confronted waves of violence by the hands of Buddhist nationalists. The federal government was accused of not doing sufficient to guard this minority neighborhood and convey those that assault them to justice.
So, unsurprisingly, when COVID-19 reached Sri Lanka, some outstanding media organisations and nationalists who’re near the present authorities have been fast accountable Muslims, who type almost 10 % of the inhabitants, for the unfold of the virus. Similar to in India, Muslim spiritual practices have been singled out as “super spreader events” and Sri Lankans who belong to the Buddhist majority have been warned to not purchase meals objects from Muslim distributors.
In April, the federal government made cremations obligatory for coronavirus victims, which matches in opposition to the Islamic custom of burying the lifeless. The measure not solely disadvantaged Muslims of a fundamental spiritual proper, however it contributed to the widespread notion that Muslim spiritual practices support the unfold of the virus.
Islam has at its coronary heart the sanctity of life and honouring the lifeless is an extension of that sanctity. There are 4 duties that Muslims are obligated to carry out upon the passing away of a fellow Muslim; they’re to clean the physique, shroud it with clear sheets, carry out the funeral prayer even when solely with a couple of folks, and supply a dignified burial.
When referred to as on to take all the mandatory measures to cease the unfold of the virus, the vast majority of Muslim communities, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, agreed to regulate their burial practices accordingly, particularly regarding the first two duties.
There is no such thing as a scientific foundation to the declare that burying our bodies of victims contributes to the unfold of the coronavirus. International locations the world over, from Europe to Africa and North America, are burying coronavirus victims, in response to the detailed tips issued by their governments, and with out inflicting any threat to public well being.
The Sri Lankan authorities’s choice to make cremation obligatory for all victims of COVID-19 is thus not a public well being measure however a blatant act of institutionalised Islamophobia. It speaks to the bigger fears that amid the coronavirus pandemic the Indian mannequin of disenfranchisement is being examined in Sri Lanka as nicely.
India and Sri Lanka should not the one international locations during which Muslims face elevated dangers, abuse and discrimination as a result of coronavirus disaster.
In China, Uighurs and different Turkic-Muslim minorities are nonetheless subjected to essentially the most unimaginable types of abuse by the hands of the federal government. In line with the UN, about a million Uighurs are being held inside so-called “re-education camps” in unhygenic and cramped circumstances. As I wrote on the very starting of this disaster, this places them at an increased risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. Additionally it is not identified whether or not they have fast entry to healthcare.
The struggling of Rohingya Muslims, who in 2017 confronted a navy offensive in Myanmar for which the federal government is dealing with genocide prices on the UN’s high court docket, has additionally elevated as a result of pandemic.Right this moment, tons of of 1000’s of Rohingya refugees live in densely populated camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. A COVID-19 outbreak within the overcrowded camps is sort of sure to return – and when it does, consultants say, the harm might be extreme. A Rohingya refugee within the camps already tested positive for the virus final week.
The governments of each China and Myanmar are utilizing the coronavirus pandemic to divert consideration from the crimes they dedicated, and proceed to commit, in opposition to Muslim minorities of their international locations. Political leaders the world over are utilizing racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia as potent instruments for short-term good points throughout this pandemic.
The world should act instantly and decisively to carry these leaders and governments to account to make sure we don’t let the rise of COVID-19 contribute to the rise of fascism.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.