Coronavirus: Islamophobia concerns after India mosque outbreak

The phenomenon of Islamophobia emerged again in India, after the authorities linked a large number of cases of coronavirus with a religious gathering of the Muslim community. 

States across India have traced more than 300 positive cases to the gathering.

Islamophobic hashtags have been trending on Twitter since the news first broke on Monday.

"Instead of corona quarantine, we should have hate quarantine," says historian Rana Safvi.

The gathering was by the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary movement that is nearly 100 years old. And its global spiritual centre or markaz is in Indian capital Delhi's Nizamuddin area.

The event was held there - and it was attended by thousands of Muslims from India and abroad.

Officials are still scrambling to identify and trace all of those who attended, as well as their secondary contacts.

But the cases that are directly linked to the event have risen steadily through the week, exposing religious fault lines in a sharply polarized country.

Even as details about the congregation emerged on national news, #CoronaJihad, #NizamuddinIdiots, #Covid-786 (a number that carries religious meaning for Muslims), began trending.

"We need to be secular. Religious groups should not hold congregations thinking religion is its own act of survival," says sociologist Shiv Visvanathan.

Islamophobic memes have also been circulating - one meme, for instance, shows China as the "producer" of the virus, and Muslims as its "distributors".

On 13 March, Delhi's government had banned all gatherings of more than 200 people. So it's unclear how the event continued.

Police in Delhi have now charged the cleric and six other leaders of the mosque for ignoring the government's warnings.

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