India’s Muslims feel persecuted during coronavirus pandemic
Community has been wrongly accused of being responsible for spread of Covid-19
Muslims in India are facing a fresh wave of Islamophobia during the coronavirus pandemic.
The nation’s 200 million Muslims have been targeted on the streets and online, and accused of spreading the virus. CNN says this is “playing into growing Hindu nationalism which in recent years has seen India's Muslim societies increasingly marginalized”.
The renewed surge of bigotry began after a Muslim missionary group, Tablighi Jamaat, held a conference in New Delhi, which turned into one of India's biggest coronavirus hot spots. This led to Muslims being harassed across the country.
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Mehboob Ali, 22, was on his way home from a Muslim missionary conference in central India when he was attacked in Harewali and forced to beg for his life. Reporting on a video of the incident, NPR radio said: “He's shaking. His hands and face are bloody. His attackers beat him and threaten to douse him with fuel and set him on fire. They accuse him of intentionally trying to spread the coronavirus.”
Mohammed Shukrdeen, a milk producer in the state of Punjab, said his community has been targeted by both residents and the authorities. He said: “First, no one wanted to buy milk from us, and second, local authorities would raid our houses.”
Mohammed Sakeb, who distributes ration kits to Muslim families, said he and his fellow volunteers now face harassment. “The other day a 25-year-old volunteer was distributing rations to the worst affected Muslim families. The police stopped him, didn't ask any questions and then started hitting him. He had to run away,” he said.
Meanwhile, hashtags blaming Muslims for the coronavirus have gained traction on social media, including #CoronaJihad, #CrushTablighiSpitters and #BioJihad. “We have observed a deliberate pattern to delegitimize the community,” Alt News, an Indian non-profit fact-checking website, said.
In a post on social media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm. He said: “Covid-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together.”
However, many blame Modi for the resurgence in anti-Muslim feeling in India. Many Muslims say his Hindu nationalist agenda has left them feeling like second-class citizens in their own country.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has expressed “deep concern” about “rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia within political and media circles and on mainstream and social media platforms”.