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Anti-Shia Bigotry In Times Of Coronavirus

Amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country as the number of reported cases continues to rise, some extremist quarters are using the crisis as an opportunity to fan the flames of sectarianism. Banned sectarian outfit Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) chief Ahmad Ludhyanvi has accused two federal ministers Ali Zaidi and Zulfi Bukhari of helping the pilgrims returning from Iran escape the quarantine centres in Taftan, thereby causing spread of the viral disease in the country.
In a series of tweets, the extremist cleric said that the pilgrims who returned from Iran including the ‘Zainabaioon terrorists’ are the sole reason for the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. He further said that the virus entered Iran from Syria and later spread to Pakistan through the pilgrims.

 

Declaring citizens belonging to a minority sect terrorists without evidence merely on grounds of their pilgrimage to Iran reeks of sectarian hatred.

Moreover, the cleric’s act of targeting two ministers (who are Shia by faith) and implying that they hatched a conspiracy to spread coronavirus in Pakistan, is at best highly inappropriate. The leaders of banned terror outfits should not be allowed to spew propaganda to further their ulterior motives. When such elements are allowed to incite violence against a group or individual, it may have dangerous consequences.

Ludhianvi’s outburst is a clear attempt to stir up sectarian emotions against the Shia community of the country, which has long been on the receiving end of persecution and violence at the hands of terror groups that deem them infidel. Such hateful rhetoric during a national emergency is unfortunate.

(Editor’s note: While we condemn the said cleric’s attempt to spew sectarian venom during the coronavirus crisis, we acknowledge Pakistan government’s mismanagement and delayed action in quarantining the pilgrims returning from Iran. However, the flawed handling of the crisis should not be seen as a sectarian issue, but one of incompetence.)

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