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Is coronavirus aggravating Islamophobia in India? Show more Show less

As covid-19 hit the headlines and became a national emergency in India, Islamophobia surged. On Twitter, furious posts poured out of the nation with the gruesome hashtag #CoronavirusJihad. The inference was clear: many Indians were using the pandemic as an excuse to victimise its Muslim population. Critics claim its government has done little to stop this, while others say the threat is exaggerated.

Yes, coronavirus is aggravating Islamophobia Show more Show less

The outbreak offers a stunning opportunity for prejudice to grow.
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A Muslim sect is being blamed for the virus

The Tablighi Jamaat Islamic missionary group is being scapegoated for the pandemic.
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India Islam Religion coronavirus health racism


In March 2020 the Tablighi Jamaat group was granted permission to host a religious event in Delhi. The gathering was attended by over 3,000 members and allowed the virus to spread rapidly amongst attendees. The group included 800 foreign preachers who had entered India illegally on tourist visas. This violation of the law has posed many problems for authorities in tracing attendees and their movements. This is a crucial obstacle in containing the spread.

The Argument

Many Indians now blame the group for infecting the Indian capital and beyond. Thousands of cases across 17 Indian states have now been traced back to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering. This has led to religiously motivated calls for the group to be banned. As K Natwar Singh writes in India's Sunday Guardian, "These fanatics spread the pandemic in various parts of the country, by not observing the guidelines laid down by the Central government—social distancing, no shaking hands and above all stay “at home”. These Jamaat fanatics flouted each of these instructions. Maulana Saad Kandhalvi recently told his followers not to worry as the coronavirus would not touch the Muslims. He further asserted that the mosque was the best place to die if anyone was infected by the virus. Every member of Jamaat, when apprehended, should be severely punished and their communal organisation banned."[1] The actions of this minority group is now being used to blame all Muslims for the virus. This finger pointing is proving increasingly dangerous and leading to disproportionate outrage. It is also obscuring failures of the government in their initial response and poor lockdown measures. Instead, the focus is now clear in the upsurge in dangerous, anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Counter arguments

The sect is not being blamed for the spread of the virus. Rather, critics are alarmed by the dangerous advice touted by its leadership, and point out just how irresponsible it was to encourage a large-scale gathering. This is not Islamophobia, it is common sense. Moreover, its members do now pose a risk to others. Pakistan, a Muslim nation, has also held adherents in quarantine. The motivation is therefore public health, not sectarian agitations.



Rejecting the premises


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This page was last edited on Monday, 6 Apr 2020 at 10:52 UTC