A Pandemic has no Religion
“It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but
the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.” — Albert Camus
This nation has many problems. Some are the ones that the whole world is facing in the
current Covid-19 situation like the falling economy, the poor dying of starvation, and denial
of medical care due to extended lockdowns. While others are quite specific to India such as
the rise in hatred among the 2 major religions (Hindu-Muslim) in India currently.
Thousands of workers were stranded homeless due to the sudden announcement of the
lockdown on 24th March last year, the central government was busy playing the blame game
on a particular community. The usual scapegoats in society are often blamed for the spread of disease during a pandemic. The same happened to the Jews in the fourteenth century who were blamed for spreading the contagion called Bubonic plague in Europe and the Haitian Community in 1990 for being the carriers of AIDS in the USA 1 .
In India, the problem became communalized in the headquarters of a Muslim evangelical
association in Nizammudin in Delhi following the Tablighi Jamaat congregation.
The Issue of Tablighi Jamaat
It all began between 13 and 15 March, when an orthodox fundamentalist Islamic group,
named Tablighi Jamaat, conducted a huge worldwide conference at its headquarters in
Nizamuddin in Delhi, which was named Markaz 2 . The assembly was held after the Union and the Delhi Government had given their required authorization, but afterward, it was labeled a COVID 19 hotspot.
The dispute developed as similar religious and political rallies of thousands of Sikhs in
Punjab and Hindu temples in Gujarat received little notice, but the Nizamuddin crowd
received widespread coverage. Even after the ruling BJP took power in Madhya Pradesh, a
celebration meeting prompted an outbreak of infections, forcing several politicians and
bureaucrats to be quarantined, failed to garner enough attention.
Misinformation was a trigger
Due to this incident, a lot of misinformation was spread amongst the people. The Muslims
around the nation were not only bearing the catastrophic human consequences of lock-outs,
but they also suffered from attacks, lynching, and boycotts, based on a failed premise that
religiously intolerant Muslims are responsible for the spread of the virus. Many Muslim
activists, including one from Swaraj Abhiyan, had been beaten with cricket bats while giving
meals to migrant workers who said they were Muslims and have spread the virus in the
country 3.Consequences of such Scapegoating in a Secular State
The epidemic might cause harmful implications to the establishment of a secure and fair
society by scapegoating and attacking a specific community. It can lead to the minority
community being ostracised, which might cause them to be distrusted 4 . The misconceptions and propaganda media can lead to a false judgment about Muslims becoming a possible threat to the community. The consequences of this would escalate lynching and attacks on a particular community, generating a social status and order, the burden of which the people cannot be guaranteed in the context of a pandemic.
The rate of COVID-19 infection is gradually increasing in India. The virus does not
distinguish between social classes, color, nationality, or religion as instances increase daily.
All possible mortality is a concern for public health in the nation, especially because the
population is disproportionate compared with the available resources. Ironically, a tragedy is
always better addressed in medical than in social terms by civilization 5 . Xenophobia increases
individualism and hatred in some, while in others it increases sensitivity, soulfulness, and
polarity. Such Islamophobic views can affect the people of any nation, particularly the
country which has been designated secular by its constitution. However, COVID-19 gives the
nation yet another chance to dwell deep into the problem of Islamophobia and adopt options
to mitigate it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR- Jivitesh Singh
Research Intern at Stambh Organization India
1 Rai D, “Communal Hatred during COVID-19” (iPleaders2020) &lt; https://blog.ipleaders.in/communal-
hatred-covid-19/&gt; accessed June 29, 2021
2 Mahaprashasta AA, “When Even a Pandemic Is Communalised” (The Wire April 1, 2020)
&lt;https://thewire.in/communalism/covid-19-tablighi-jamaat-hindu-muslim&gt; accessed June 29, 2021
3 Ali A, “Coronavirus Was a Test of Secular Nationalism. Then Tablighi Jamaat Became the Scapegoat”
(ThePrint April 1, 2020) &lt;https://theprint.in/opinion/coronavirus-test-of-secular-nationalism-tablighi-jamaat-
became-scapegoat/392764/&gt; accessed June 29, 2021
4 Sarkar S, “Religious Discrimination Is Hindering the Covid-19 Response” (The BMJ June 29, 2020) &lt
;https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2280&gt; accessed June 29, 2021
5 Ahuja KK and Banerjee D, “The ‘Labeled’ Side of COVID-19 in India: Psychosocial Perspectives on
Islamophobia During the Pandemic” (Frontiers December 28, 2020)
&lt;https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.604949/full&gt; accessed June 29, 2021