Don’t communalise the battle against Covid-19

The Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Nizamuddin was, as this newspaper has argued, gravely irresponsible and most likely criminal. It should not have been held when social distancing norms were in force, and the government had issued clear directives against large congregations. It has singularly led to a spike in cases, with efforts to trace everyone present in the complex continuing across states. Action must be taken against the Jamaat leadership.

At the same time, it is important not to communalise the issue. There has been an unfortunate, disturbing trend of using this episode to blame the entire Muslim community, and perpetuate stereotypes about them. This must be resisted. Not only is it wrong, India cannot afford the deepening of the Hindu-Muslim divide at a time when every citizen — irrespective of religion, caste, class, gender and age — is confronting a common enemy.

In fact, the Nizamuddin gathering, where the leader of the sect seems to have made light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and also advised against social distancing, is a reminder that every religious leader, every sect, every religious institution, must come together with a common message at this time. This message must focus on science, the need to obey government orders, help the poor and the more marginalised segments given the economic disruption to their livelihoods, and co-operate with frontline workers — particularly the medical fraternity. Religions offer faith, solace and hope; they help people tide over difficult moments. This is one such moment. Use religion to unite, not divide.

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