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US concern at Jihad label on coronavirus

The Indian government has not blamed any minority community for the spread of the virus

By Anita Joshua in New Delhi
  • Published 4.04.20, 5:11 AM
  • Updated 4.04.20, 5:11 AM
  • a min read
US ambassador Samuel Brownback Wikipedia

The US on Thursday expressed concern over efforts to link the coronavirus pandemic to a particular religion in several countries and urged governments to counter this.

This was stated by the US ambassador at large for international religious freedom, Samuel Brownback, in response to a specific question from a journalist in Washington about the hashtag CoronaJihad trending in India.

The journalist also asked if Brownback’s office, which is part of the US state department, is “tracking how the coronavirus has exacerbated any anti-Muslim activity like this”.

Stating that his office is looking into the blaming of religious minorities for the spread of the pandemic, Brownback said this was happening in various places.

“This is wrong by governments to do this. It is — the governments really should put this down and state very clearly that this is not the source of the coronavirus. It’s not the religious minority communities,” Brownback said.

It was not clear which governments the envoy was referring to. The Indian government has not blamed any minority community for the spread of the virus. Such a smear campaign is largely driven by several social media users who have drawn more attention because of the high-voltage coverage in sections of the mainstream media.

Hundreds of participants at a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi last month have tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming fodder for Right-wing propaganda communalising the pandemic and triggering the CoronaJihad hashtag.

In Washington, Brownback said: “And they (governments) should go out there in open messaging and say no, this is not what happened.... But unfortunately, we are seeing that sort of blame game getting started up in different places around the world, and we hope it gets pushed back aggressively by those host governments.”

On whether he had raised with the Indian government the issue of people giving communal overtones to the pandemic, Brownback said “not yet”.

Asked if Kashmir was getting the help it needed to counter the pandemic, the ambassador said he did not have any specific information, adding that “we do call on governments to work with their religious minorities in this time of pandemic and make sure they are getting the needed resources and aid”.