Novel Conspiracy Outbreak: A Compilation Of Myths About The Coronavirus Pandemic
We live in an age of suspicion, where the credibility of mainstream media is under constant attack from a number of sources – from right-wing populists to extended-family Whatsapp groups. This poses a serious problem during a pandemic like Covid-19. Factual inaccuracies, irresponsible speculation, rumour-mongering and deliberate disinformation combine to make one terrifying mass of untruths – and nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Pakistan.
At the highest levels of government and all the way to individual family members at home, there are people who refuse to take the risks of the novel Coronavirus outbreak seriously. Others spread various false claims about it. This has had tragic consequences, hindering the country’s fight against the pandemic. It has resulted in hesitation at the top-most level on the need for a lockdown policy, to mixed signals from the Prime Minister on how dangerous the virus is for old and young. It has also resulted in a number of irresponsible statements and analyses by some religious and political figures. From religious lobbies down to the level of neighbourhood mosques, there have been a number of spurious religion-based arguments against social-distancing measures and quarantines.
Lives could be lost due to such confusion and irresponsible behaviour. Economic disruption could also end up being more severe if the Coronavirus cases spread rapidly and overwhelm the weak healthcare system of the country.
Here at Naya Daur Media, we have compiled some examples of myths and irresponsible loose talk around the Coronavirus outbreak – from the harmful to the outlandish and from the dangerous to the ridiculous.
The Coronavirus pandemic was caused by eating ‘haram’ food and bats
This is a theory which would be hard-pressed to explain other outbreaks such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
The Coronavirus pandemic was the result of China’s policies in Xinjiang
Commentators respond by asking “What about Muslim countries struggling with the virus?”
The Coronavirus pandemic is punishment for our sins
A common view of pandemics, often stereotypically associated with medieval plagues in Europe – though it was not the standard view of the Church. Moreover, this opinion was never fully accepted in Muslim societies, even in the early Rashidun caliphate when it struggled with plagues such as that of Amwas.
Covid-19 may be the result of synthetically modifying a virus for military purposes in the United States.
This is a view that has unfortunately been pushed also by Pakistani scientist Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman. It has been comprehensively dismissed because we now know a lot about the virus – it is being studied around the world.
Covid-19 is all pre-planned according to a script from a story and a film which mentions everything that is happening today. It has targeted opponents of US foreign policy such as China, Iran and Italy (China’s “friend in Europe”).
This is a variant of the same view that Covid-19 was a deliberate step taken in the US. Spread via Whatsapp groups and social media detectives looking for “who benefits the most from the pandemic”, this conspiracy theory has unfortunately also been pushed by outspoken former Senator Faisal Raza Abidi
Faisal Raza Abidi: I am not a specialist but there are no two opinions that USA created #coronavirus and launched it against China, Iran and Italy (China’s largest trade partner in EU) to ensure that countries trade in USD & not in regional currencies. pic.twitter.com/adQZ0brHDf
— Umar (@cybertosser) April 4, 2020
Muslims won’t get infected by the virus
This claim has been made by a number of religious figures from all sects. It is often combined with the claim that Muslims can avoid the virus by performing some religious obligation, eating or drinking some particular item or simply having ‘enough’ faith. The only result of such unfortunate claims has been to disrupt the efforts by authorities in Muslim countries like Pakistan to control the spread of the pandemic.
The virus was made in China as a bio-warfare experiment
This is a pro-Western variant of the conspiracy theory that blames the United States.
The virus was made in the UK
This is another variant, which suggests that the Coronavirus is linked to the testing of 5G technology.
This claim has been spread recently by figures such as Pakistani-born British boxer Amir Khan, who described the scientific explanations for the spread of the virus as “bulls*it”. Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson and TV judge Amanda Holden are among other high-profile figures to have signed up for this theory. The UK’s Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove has tried to address this “dangerous nonsense”.
The virus was made in Iran
Another variant of the same.
Coronavirus was deliberately spread in Pakistan by Iran for sectarian or strategic reasons
This variant builds on the made-in-Iran theme.
One particular community is responsible for ‘bringing the virus to Pakistan’ – and now they are “blaming the other/correct/true sect”
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry responded best to these claims.
— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) April 2, 2020