Islamophobia: a virus that never stops spreading

While in the real world we are fighting to defeat covid-19, in the virtual world of social media there is a virus that never stops spreading that of racial hatred and Islamophobia.

From the beginning the haters, supported by the traditional media, have been looking for the scapegoat to blame for the contagion, in Italy for example a strong attack against the Chinese communities was unleashed in December and January, except that the Italians themselves became the object of discrimination once the virus arrived in Europe and hit Italy first.

Now that covid-19 is a pandemic, we are seeing attacks against Muslim communities growing in different parts of the world. The common denominator is unfortunately always the same, the spread of fake news by extreme right-wing exponents, (but not only) through social media.

Images taken before the lockdown, fake accusations, spread quickly on the internet before police officers officially deny the news, or advocacy associations reveal these lies.

Perhaps the country where the most violent attacks were recorded was India, where even members of the ruling party immediately accused the Muslim group Tablighi Jamaat of spreading the virus at an event in Dehli, and then generated a hunt for all Muslims falsely accused of wanting to infect people of the Hindu religion with the virus.

But there are also many cases of hate speech and fake news in Europe. Many British newspapers such as the Guardian, the conversation, the Intercept report these episodes.

Prominent exponents of the extreme right movements have spread the false news that groups of Muslims gathered in mosques to pray, despite the lockdown, news always denied by the authorities.

Allegations of this kind, impliyng a relation between Muslims and the spread of the virus, have come not only from online haters, but also from recognized newspapers, the twitter of The Economist for example, has made much talk. The magazine has since taken down the tweet.

In Austria or Germany and France there are also episodes of discrimination perpetrated equally by individuals but also by the press.

This is the tweet of the writer Claudia Zettel that highlights how an Austrian newspaper to talk about the first suspected case of COVID-19 a chinese woman, shows the image of a woman wearing an Hijab without any meaningful link between the news and the image.

In times of crisis, the cliché always wants the scapegoat to be found to deal with unanswered questions. But in the XXI century it is unacceptable to let ignorance prevail over science, but also over respect for the leaders of all and the value of peaceful coexistence.

Even more we recognize the importance of the work carried out by the MEET project to spread a counter-narrative to promote mutual knowledge, the integration of women of Muslim religion, and to condemn racism and hatred online.