An ‘envoy’ is defined as a messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission. Sam Brownback, the US envoy for International Religious Freedom gave a statement on a telephonic briefing where he called out harassment against Muslims in India with respect to COVID-19 1 . He blamed social media for spreading fake news, as well as ingrained prejudice against Muslims in general to be the perpetuating cause of the harassment.
Muslims have been constantly facing discrimination in various forms since the lockdown started. It started off with hateful comments and social exclusion but now, it has exaggerated to the extent of the media screaming “Corona-Jihad” as way to showcase their Islamophobia. About 30 percent of the total infections in India has been attributed to the fallout of a Tablighi Jamaat meet held in New Delhi in March.
This statement by Mr. Brownback came a week after US. International Commission for Religious Freedom (USCIRF) giving a statement AGAINST the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and pinpointing India as a country with “particular concern” 3 . Further, there are reports of the Indian Govt. arresting Muslim activists protesting the CAA such as Safoora Zargar, an MPhil student of Jamia, on 10 th April 2020. She was released on bail after denying it three times even though she is pregnant.
In the later part of his speech, Mr. Brownback pleaded the officials to look into the matter and encourage unity. PM. Shri. Narendra Modi has stated numerous times that “COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking” and has encouraged everyone is seek brotherhood in times of crisis.
Nevertheless, the US Envoy’s message has been taking social media by storm and more awareness is being spread about minority mental health during the pandemic. This social exclusion has led to high anxiety, paranoia about safety and depression in the Muslim community, making them conceal their identities.
It’s imperative that we work towards reducing this divide in various levels, ie. Personal, Community and Official Level. This means, avoiding false news on social media, not discriminating against a particular community by educating ourselves, and lastly, calling out others who are spreading hate and negativity against a minority, specially Muslims.
It cannot be stressed enough that CORONAVIRUS is not religion, community or gender specific. It can affect anyone and everyone, so take the necessary precautions and stay safe!
- Times of India (2020) Unfortunate Covid-19 related 'rhetoric and harassment'; against a minority community in India: US. Retrieved from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/unfortunate-covid-19-related-rhetoric-and-harassment-against-a-minority-community-in-india-us-official/articleshow/75752171.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&&&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst
- Jha, L. K. (2020). Unfortunate COVID-19 related 'rhetoric and harassment'; against Muslims in India: US official. The Outlook. Retrieved from: https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/unfortunate-covid19-related-rhetoric-and-harassment-against-muslims-in-india-us-official/1835015
- Lakshman, S. (2020). US Envoy calls out COVID-19 related harassment in minorities in India. The Hindu. Retrieved from: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-envoy-calls-out-harassment-of-minorities-in-india-over-covid-19/article31591566.ece