Why many Indians believe Muslims spread COVID-19

Wazukhaana in front of Fatehpuri Masjid, a Sufi mosque in northern Delhi, in 2015.

Here’s an analogy. If people are standing in line, and a brown person shoves a white person, it would be incorrect of the white person to conclude that brown people have no manners. I think most Indians understand this. So when we Indians stand in line and a Muslim person shoves a Hindu person, it would be incorrect of the Hindu to conclude that Muslim people have no manners (especially when all of us have seen how our fellow Indians cut lines, everywhere, even when there’s assigned and assured seating, as when boarding a flight).

What prompted this was a conversation I had recently with an old friend, in which Muslims as a whole were being held responsible for one Hindu (said friend) getting shoved while waiting in line at a store, at a time when everyone is supposed to stay 6 feet apart. The friend started to say something about “these people”, so I felt compelled to point out to them that just the previous day, I had to tell a Hindu fellow shopper blocking a narrow aisle in the grocery store to cover her nose and mouth with her mask. Her mask was hanging around her neck like a necklace, and she made no attempt to put it on or to give way when I indicated that I needed to pass her. She had already breathed over who knows how many products, leaving germs all over the place. I told my friend that the definitely-Hindu cashier had no mask either. Everyone knows that this sort of behavior is currently punishable.

A word about Hindus, Muslims, and cleanliness. People who have researched sanitation in South Asia have found that in general, personal hygiene levels in predominantly Hindu India are lower than in the predominantly Muslim neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan. They surmise that this may be directly related to the fact that Islam has clear prescriptions pertaining to personal hygiene, which are daily rituals. In contrast, they note, Hinduism has none (or no clear and effective ones that are widely taught and practised, at any rate).

And yet our fascist government/media/social circles have brainwashed us into racist thinking by repeatedly portraying Muslims in particular as vectors of Covid-19 (for example, see thisthisthis, and after the Delhi government’s own complicity, this). And sadly, even those of us who sincerely believe we are good, smart, sensible, righteous, reasonable, and not-evil take up such racist thinking and let ourselves become pawns in the politics of hate. We slip into believing greater lies like “Muslims are destroying this country”. Many of us vote for leaders based on the racist belief that we have chosen to embrace, instead of voting in the interest of ourselves and our fellow citizens.

(Photo credit: Uma Asher / Medium)

Welcome to the Islamophobic Terrordome of Closely Watched Trains and Planes

Faizah Shaheen was detained for reading a book

In late July Faizah Shaheen was returning to England, from her honeymoon, when she was detained and questioned, under terror laws, at Doncaster Airport. Her crime was [a] being a Muslim woman [b] who, two weeks earlier, had been reading a book, Malu Halasa’s award winning collection, Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. This week she announced she now intends to make formal complaints against the police and the airline. Yesterday, in India, Taufiq Ahmed, a Kashmiri man, was pulled off a train at Sagar railway station in Madhya Pradesh, arrested and jailed on charges of sedition. His crime was [a] being a Kashmiri man [b] who had commented on, forwarded and “liked” some “anti-India” posts on Facebook. Welcome to the Terrordome … Can’t wait for the state to decide the fate So this jam I dedicate.

Faizah Shaheen and Taufiq Ahmed join the lists of “Muslim” individuals who have been subjected to humiliation, interrogation, and detention. Here’s a partial, very partial, list from the last twelve months or so. The list is very partial, first because so much of the world, for example Kashmir, goes unreported and, second, because the so-called anti-terror laws created an ever expanding zone of night and fog.

In November 2015, Maher Khalil was kept from boarding a plane because he was speaking with a friend in Arabic.

In December 2015, Mohamed Ahmed Radwan was kicked off a plane, in Charlotte, North Carolina, because he made an air attendant “uncomfortable.”

In March 2016, Mohamad and Eaman Shebley and their three children were removed from a plane in Chicago, after having asked for help with a child’s booster seat.

In April 2016, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a university student and asylee, was removed from a plane, in Los Angeles, because he was speaking Arabic.

At the end of May 2016, Tahera Ahmad, a chaplain at Northwestern University, was on a flight from Chicago to Washington, DC. She asked for an unopened can of soda, and was denied. She was told the can could be used as a weapon. The passenger next to her asked for an unopened can of beer, and was given one. When she protested the disparity in treatment, she was insulted by passengers and crew.

In May, Guido Menzio, “with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent”, was temporarily escorted off a plane when the passenger next to him decided that something was just not right. He was scribbling something in an inscrutable script. Surely he was writing in Arabic. In fact, Menzio, who’s Italian and a world-renowned mathematician, was working out some differential equations.

The list, of names and of forms of discrimination, goes on. As Tahera Ahmad explained, “This isn’t about me and a soda can. It’s about systemic injustice that is perpetuated throughout our community.” Systemic injustice is perpetuated throughout our world; it is the new foundation. The system of that injustice is terror itself, and it does more than touch this individual or delay or detain that one. It swallows what little shreds are left of democracy, and makes democracy into its own image. It intensifies as it expands the sphere of violence and fear.

I’ve been wonderin’ why
People livin’ in fear
Of my shade
(Or my hi top fade)
I’m not the one that’s runnin’
But they got me on the run
Treat me like I have a gun
All I got is genes and chromosomes
Consider me Black to the bone
All I want is peace and love
On this planet
(Ain’t that how God planned it?)

Ain’t that how God planned it?


(Photo Credit: The Guardian)