When “Black death” bubonic plague erupted in Europe in 1340s, many pointed a finger of blame at Jews for the outbreak. Hundreds of years later, the history repeats itself as the world looks for a scapegoat in spreading the Coronavirus. The religious minorities are being targeted for the disease contagion.
While India becomes the third country to pass 1 million COVID-19 cases, its officials had linked the spread to a religious gathering. It is estimated that many of the country’s cases were connected to Tablighi Jamaat, which held a huge Islamic gathering in New Delhi in early March. The result was an alarming outbreak of the virus and a new wave of hatred towards many Muslims who are currently facing backlash, stigma, and severe persecution.
As it was already dangerous to be Muslim in India since 1980, the malice directed toward this minority group has intensified an already difficult situation. Many more violent incidents toward Muslims have taken place across the country. Flooding in on social media are hate messages and false news that target the Muslim community.
One cannot place the blame solely on the congregation, but rather see the failures at different levels, including the government. Some authorities ignored the pandemic recommendations such as preventing people from gathering early on. The lockdown was announced on March 24 of this year, ordering 1.3 billion Indians to stay at home for 21 days.
According to Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh YS Jaganmohan Reddy, “There are many religious leaders in the country and all are known for organizing mass gatherings. The unfortunate incident that took place in New Delhi could have taken place in anyone of these congregations also.” He stated that the spread of the virus in Jamaat congregation, India’s first largest hotspot, should be seen as an accident.
The Office of the Prime Minister in India wrote on Twitter, “COVID-19 does not see race, religion, color, caste, creed, language or borders.” He also added, “we are in this together.”
Tablighi Jamaat is only one of the myriad religious groups around the world that suffer waves of hate amidst the pandemic. Instead of looking for a scapegoat, the world should be working together to look for a solution. The answer to a global pandemic can only be possible to achieve through human solidarity, collaborative efforts, and scientific endeavors.