Muslims attacked, lynched in India after virus spread blame

DM Monitoring

NEW YORK: The outbreak of Coronavirus in India has setoff a series of attacks against Muslims across the country, with the health ministry of the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi claiming that Muslims are spreading the virus, according to a leading U.S. newspaper.
“Young Muslim men who were passing out food to the poor were assaulted with cricket bats,” The New York Times said in a New Delhi-datelined report.
“Other Muslims have been beaten up, nearly lynched, run out of their neighborhoods or attacked in mosques, branded as virus spreaders,” the paper said, highlighting that Hindu extremists were scapegoating the country’s entire Muslim population for deliberately spreading the virus through “corona jihad”.
Sikh temples in Punjab State, it added, are urging people not to purchase milk from Muslim dairy farmers because it is allegedly infected with the coronavirus.
Hateful messages have also grown online. According to the Times, fake videos have popped up calling on Muslims not to take protective measures, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing, and urging them not to worry about the virus at all as if they aimed to let Muslims get infected with the virus.
According to the Times, Indian officials estimated last week that more than a third of the country’s cases were connected to TablighiJamaat, which held a huge gathering of preachers in India in March.
The paper said the rising anti-Muslim attacks came after the government claimed that more than a third of the country’s 8,000-plus coronavirus cases were connected to Muslims. Mohammed Haider, who runs a milk stall, one of the few businesses allowed to remain open under India’s coronavirus restrictions, said, “Fear is staring at us, from everywhere.’’
“People need only a small reason to beat us or to lynch us,’’ he said. “Because of corona.’’
Muslim leaders expressed concern over the new wave of hatred, recounting a February attack by Hindu mobs on Muslims in a working-class neighbourhood in Delhi that claimed the lives of dozens of people in the presence of police.
“The government should not have played the blame game,” Khalid Rasheed, the chairman of Islamic Center of India, said. “If you present the cases based on somebody’s religion in your media briefings,’’ he said, “it creates a big divide.”
“Coronavirus may die,” he added, “but the virus of communal disharmony will be hard to kill when this is over.”