Hate in the Age of Corona

  • | Monday, 28 September, 2020
Hate in the Age of Corona

As we are about to bid farewell to 2020, we need to reflect on a dilemma that has swept through the whole world, Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Starting at the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic –if we may say- revealed the true colors of many nations, governments and also hatemongers. Hatred spread in the year of the pandemic is one of a kind; actors from different factions used this pandemic to incite hatred against their opponents. Far Right or Far Left affiliates have worked intensely to attack their opponents, spread hatred and incite acts of violence at a time where all efforts were needed to save and protect lives; for pandemics don’t see a difference between right and left or believers and non-believers, all will come under its blade and all must unite to fight it. Within the coming lines, we will explore some of the conspiracy theories (Arrows of Hatred) that have spread through the past few months, since the beginning of the pandemic.

With early cases reported by the end of December 2019, the world came to encounter a new strain of Coronavirus and a new move of hatred directed at those with Asian descents. China was the first state to report a case of an unknown virus that is more lethal than the last discovered strain of SARS, lately named COVID-19. This virus that put many governments in a state of flux given its quick transmission speed made them ready to blame anyone for this crisis, and no other than the first country which reported it to be blamed. By the time the pandemic was about to reach every country around the world, everyone started to blame china for the disaster they were facing, even the US president Donald Trump called the virus “the Chinese Virus”, putting all the blame on China and its government for letting this virus slip out of their laboratories. These accusations and many more resulted in more hate speech and crimes targeting people with Asian descents around the world, that in the UK alone hate crimes targeting Asians and south Asians increased by 21%[1].

This wave of hatred and xenophobia did not stop at Asians only, for far right groups took this as a chance to target those they assumed as their enemies; Jews, Muslims and migrants in general. Far Right groups and Supremacists called their supporters to use the pandemic as a chance to attack Jews everywhere; they suggested infecting the Jews with the virus by coughing or sneezing in their faces. Other Far Right groups spread theories that this virus was a Jewish plot[2] to reduce the non-Jewish population and to control the world. "I am extremely concerned to see that certain religious leaders and politicians continue to exploit the challenging times during this pandemic to spread hatred against Jews and other minorities," the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed.[3]

The next group targeted by hate was Muslims, not only by Far Right groups but even by some governments, Muslims were accused of spreading the virus or even importing it in some cases. Tommy Robinson, head of the Far Right group Britain First, used the pandemic to spread fake news about Muslims in the UK, incite hatred against them and accuse them of being the reason behind the rise in numbers of infections. For instance, he shared on his Telegram account a video for some Muslim worshippers leaving a mosque in Birmingham and breaking blockade rules; the video, which was investigated by the police and proved fake, was watched 14000 times. Before past Ramadan, also, many conspiracy theories against Muslims circulated on Far Right most used platforms like 4Chan and Gab, it claimed that Muslims will not refrain from their normal social activities and will cause a rise in the reported cases infected with COVID-19.

Not only in United Kingdom that Muslims were accused of being spreaders of Coronavirus. In India and by the time the reported numbers of cases escalated to thousands, Muslims were accused across the country –even by the government- of being the reason behind this sharp rise. An event held by Islamic Tablighi Jamaat, attended by 8000 Muslims in mid-March, was the spark behind this islamophobic accusation.

Though the event was approved by authorities at first, the ruling party in India “Bharatiya Janata Party” claimed later that it was held intently to infect millions with Coronavirus in what they called “Corona Terrorism”. Police was ordered to round up anyone related to Tablighi Jamaat, so far 27000 members in the organization have been quarantined across the country[4]. BJP used this opportunity to serve their goals aiming at marginalizing Indian Muslims, given the latest “anti-Muslim” citizenship law which excludes Muslim immigrants from getting an Indian citizenship. Many reports mentioned also that hospitals in India refused to admit Muslim patients of COVID-19, and that they are left to face their plight alone[5].

Not far from India, Muslims again are blamed for transferring or importing the coronavirus. In Myanmar, the government witnessing another rise in reported cases and with the growing concerns over the handling of the situation, government officials started saying the Rohingya are all to be blamed for this second wave. They allege that Rohingya Muslims coming from Bangladesh brought with them the virus and that they were the reason behind the recent rise in reported cases. Such a rhetoric caused a rise in hate speech targeting Rohingya Muslims; the media outlet The Voice, shortly after those accusations were said, released a caricature depicting one of the Rohingya coming from Bangladesh carrying the virus with him. As if the severe conditions they live in are not enough that the government seeks to raise more hatred towards them and ruin more of their life.

COVID-19 pandemic is a plight that was supposed to bring people closer and increase their sense of humanity, but instead it awakened a beast lying asleep. A beast that once saw his prey about to fall down, ran towards, attacked and killed it. This hatred that spread in higher amounts and speeds than any other time is not only harmful but killing; in some of the above mentioned cases it deprives people of the chance to get treated. Humanity is in a dire need to see cooperative work done, hatred dismissed and peace and love prevailed, otherwise the next pandemic will bring earth to an end.

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