Representational image | Adeel Halim/Bloomberg News
Representational image | Photo: Adeel Halim | Bloomberg
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A tragedy is a terrible thing to waste – for the haters.

Since the Black Death plague in the 14th century, every outbreak of an infectious disease has also been closely followed by an outbreak of stigma, racism and xenophobia. Things haven’t changed much 600 years later. As the world grapples with Covid-19 pandemic today, some countries are also finding their favourite scapegoats to hate on.

During the Black Death, people went after Jews, beggars, and foreigners across Europe. This time around, the Iranian government is blaming Jews, and the Israelis in turn are blaming Palestinians. The Chinese are blaming Uyghurs and Pakistanis are blaming the Hazaras. And at home, people en masse are blaming Muslims over the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi.

In a world marked by hyperglobalism and nationalist populism, we all are living in societies with almost state-sanctioned hatred against persecuted groups and minority communities. In such a world, the coronavirus pandemic is causing societies to find their own personal scapegoat to blame.

These new patterns of hatred during coronavirus pandemic reflect the already existing structures of marginalisation and persecution. Only now it’s on a global scale.


Also read: Coronavirus was a test of secular nationalism. Then Tablighi Jamaat became the scapegoat


Global disease, local hatred

It all began with US President Donald Trump. Given that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan in China, the not-so-civil leader used this opportunity to label Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”. This follows the US-China trade war and all the rhetoric that accompanied it in the last two years. This also heightened instances of racism and discrimination faced by the Asian population in the US.

While Trump’s politics was expected, it makes little sense that the deeply persecuted Hazaras and seething African asylum seekers in Italy would be made the scapegoat in Pakistan and Italy.

“We are troubled that government officials in Balochistan are scapegoating the already vulnerable and marginalized Hazara Shi’a community for this public health crisis,” said United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Arunima Bhargava.

The African asylum seekers – the continent with the least Covid-19 incidence – were blamed by former Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini as the main cause of the virus’ spread in his country. When a boat carrying 276 Africans rescued in the Mediterranean, was allowed to dock in Sicily, Salvini went on a limb and asked Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to resign, accusing him of his inability to defend “Italy and Italians”.

In China, where the authorities, unlike anywhere else in the world, are actually acquainted with where the virus originated and how it spread, are using the crisis to further persecute the Uyghur community. They are forcing them to donate organs in order to save the lives of the infected Han population.

In India, while the Tablighi Jamaat need to be held accountable, the Muslim population at large has had to face the brunt of a government action and media-run hate campaign that blamed them for single-handedly spreading the virus across the country. And as shown by journalist Shoaib Daniyal of Scroll, the very premise of these “statistical” claims were based on basic sampling bias and errors.

“The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has uncovered social and political fractures within communities, with racialised and discriminatory responses to fear, disproportionately affecting marginalised groups,” notes a new study in The Lancet.


Also read: Covid an excuse to push Indian Muslims out of informal sector jobs. Apartheid the next step


Hyper-globalisation meets nationalism

The three major economic crises of the recent past – Asian financial crisis, global financial crisis, and now the coronavirus pandemic – have all been caused by unrestricted global flows. In the first two instances, it was flows of global capital; and in the third, it was unrestricted human flows.

The inability of nation-states to balance between these flows with the task of providing welfare to their citizenry gave rise to populist nationalism around the world. The sheer lack of experience ensures that when met with a crisis, these populist nationalist leaders resort to the only thing they are really good at — manipulating the masses and raking up the politics of fear and discrimination.

Views are personal.

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11 Comments Share Your Views

11 COMMENTS

  1. Indian Govt sponsored anti-Muslim policy Vs discrimination for backward society in Pakistan. Hence Equating Pak hazara issues with indian muslim is not same. but it will appropriate for Indian media to Equate it with the indian advasi, dalit & marginal tribes.

  2. Another pseudo intellectual pontificating on how the world should behave, except of course for Muslims who can never do any wrong.
    We can call a disease japanese encephalitis, zika virus, ebola but God forbid not Wuhan virus.
    I think these so called liberals are nothing but paid propogandists of islam, china and anyone who is willing yo banlroll them.

  3. People in other communities hate you, not because of your golden inheritance as you think or that you have a true religion that might be a potential threat to other communities. No this is not the case it is because of the potential threat they have because of your ignorance. Because of the ignorance which your religious clerics and rulers intentionally planted and flourishing in your communities since centuries.
    The situation with you is very complicated. You are not able to recognise any connection between your ignorance and all the afflictions befalling on you. Diseases, Poverty, Killing, fighting with each other are the traits of your societies. Societies where there is no liberty no freedom, where no new ideas come, no inventions, where every item of technology that you use comes from the west and other communities. Majority of your people are in poverty. Eat dirty food, die like the flies, and attack each other. Since you fail to make the connection between ignorance and your miserable situation you are now entered in a vicious cycle of poverty and more ignorance, multiplying every moment. THE LAST DIALOGUE

  4. After jihadism now victimizing themselves this programming is long drawn . Now the world has enough evidence to see it. This view is of course sponsored by some states publicly and obliquely by them. People in the name of liberalism caught in their own web of misdeeds committed on humanity.

  5. This is an incredibly stupid article. I’ll make sure that I keep a record of this to share an example on how not to right an article. And God knows which MUSLIM population at LARGE are you talking about. Pakistan, a Muslim country, is doing the same, how the hell is this about their religion? Their crime, much like yours, is just plain stupidity which sadly you don’t have suffer as much as the people around you.

  6. Quite an elaborate Englishing , as we say in the industry, write some English to fill an ‘explantaion’. Here we are!

  7. While the organization Tablighi Jammat needs to be condemned and prosecuted for their criminal act, the entire Indian Muslim community should not be blamed and targeted for the lapses of the few.

  8. Scapegoat is someone who is wrongly blamed for some wrong he/she did not commit. The blasphemy of the pseudo liberals is not lost on anybody. And that blasphemy is thinking Tablighi Jamaat to be representative of entire Muslim community. Everyone has been mentioning the Jamaat but liberals both pseudo and neo find it an “assault” on Muslims! It is reprehensibly hilarious and its not just an aberration. The reply of the WB CM categorising an inanimate object i.e a question into a communal or secular category shows the kind of intellectual degradation these “liberals” face. I guess this is not Kalyug , its actually “SarcasmYUg” where “liberals” are illiberal and “seculars” are communal! The author needs to spend some time taking in some deep breaths.

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