Pandemic adding to stigmatization of Muslims in India by Hindu nationalists

Indian Muslims are facing a new wave of discrimination and stigmatization as the coronavirus has spread throughout India. The German newspaper Deutsche Welle (May 14, 2020) reports that “After the Indian government linked hundreds of coronavirus cases to a Muslim gathering in March, social media users began spreading angry messages and sharing fake news articles purporting that Muslims were conspiring to spread the virus.” Many of accusations took place after a surge in coronavirus infections was found to be linked to a three-day meeting of an Islamic missionary group, the Tablighi Jamaat. The 8,000 people gathering has been widely seen as a “superspreader” of the virus. The group’s chief, Maulana Saad, was later charged with culpable homicide and negligence.

The outcome was that many Muslims faced renewed stigma, threats, and boycotts in India, where Hindu nationalism has already targeted Muslims for discrimination. Fake videos showing Muslims flouting social distancing rules and spitting on people have circulated on the Internet, with increased cases of violence, as well as boycotts against the Islamic community. Some members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, which embraces Hindu nationalism, have openly blamed Muslims for the spread of the virus, while Modi has distanced himself from such view and has urged all Indians to unite against the virus.