Covid 19 and the virus of Islamophobia
24th May 2020
In a number of recent reports Al Jazeera had highlighted a the unsettling ways in which Covid 19 has been used to justify populist government policies that target and use as scapegoats minority Muslim communities. According to the news channel, in India the Muslim community have been spoken of as ‘super spreaders’ engaging in a form of ‘corona jihad’ by sections of the Indian media and some members of the ruling BJP party. In Sri Lanka, reports suggest, the phenomena of Coronavirus, stigmatisation and fear mongering has underpinned the Government’s decision to make cremation mandatory for all citizens, something that fully compromises the religious Muslim view that places the sanctity of life at the heart of its view of the world and that burial is absolutely central to, ‘honouring the dead is an extension of that sanctity.’ ( see https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/india-sri-lanka-coronavirus-stigmatise-muslims-200519134939934.html )
In the U.K. too, discussion has turned to the issue of the seemingly disproportionate, ‘ stream of advice from government, celebrities, and local health and law enforcement officials has been described by some as patronising, as many noticed a double standard.’ in terms of the advice given to the community concerning the celebration of Eid al-Fitr today. This has been brought in to sharper focus when, as the report suggests, ‘fewer warnings regarding other recent celebrations such as the VE Day anniversary.’ were issued, leading some UK Mulsims to ask, ‘ Why are we being treated differently?’. ( see; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/uk-stay-home-eid-messages-slammed-patronising-200522124639354.html )
Its an interesting and important question, but whatever the case, such issues are bound to inform the ongoing debate and discussion concerning Islam in the UK, especially in relation to equality, rights, immigration and religious identity. Furthermore, it raises the crucial question as to whether the spectre of Islamomphobia and populism are not greedily feeding upon the current global crisis and whether, as it seems with others, the UK political and media establishment are pandering to populist sentiment and the unquestioning marginalisation of religious minorities using the current pandemic as a vehicle.