India’s Muslims feel targeted in pandemic

India's Muslims feel targeted in pandemic
Rumors and misinformation have been spreading on social media against Muslims in India. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: Indian Muslims are targeted and facing racism by rumors they’re spreading Covid-19. One Indian Muslim named Hafiz Mohammed Naseerudin says that police assaulted him for being a Muslim and blamed him for spreading the coronavirus in the country, he was left lying on the road for almost an hour.

Naseerudin, a resident of Karnataka, a southern Indian state, went to pick up some vegetables from his friend’s house when he says an officer stopped him on his scooter.

He believes he was stopped because of his religion, as other vehicles were on the road.

He says: “I am an Imam, so I look and dress very Muslim. I also have a long beard.”

He said that police started hitting him and claiming that it is because of him and his community that this disease is spreading.

Naseerudin is not alone in India right now. As coronavirus is spreading in the country, some of the country’s Muslims have been targeted in Islamophobic attacks on the streets and online and accused of spreading the virus. India has roughly 200 million Muslims in its 1.3 billion population.

For example, in the capital, New Delhi, volunteers distributing ration kits to Muslim families say they face harassment from police and are scared to go out. In Punjab, Muslim milk producers say their houses have been raided by police, they have been threatened by villagers and people are scared to buy their produce.

At the center of the recent Islamophobia in India is a gathering of a conservative Muslim missionary group in New Delhi in mid-March, and led to highly publicized cluster of coronavirus cases.

While incidents of racism against Muslims have been mostly isolated, the virus fears are only amplifying existing prejudices in the country, playing into growing Hindu nationalism which in recent years has seen India’s Muslim communities increasingly marginalized.

Since Narendra Modi was reelected in a huge victory last year, many Indian Muslims say his emphasis on empowering India’s Hindu majority has left them feeling like second-class citizens in their own country.

Under Modi government, nearly two million people in India’s northeast Assam state were left off a controversial new National Register of Citizens (NRC). Critics feared that the NRC could be used to justify religious discrimination against Muslims there, and a divisive new law has been enacted which gives Indian citizenship to asylum seekers from three neighboring countries — but not if they are Muslim. Modi government has also stripped of the autonomous status of the majority-Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir.