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Populist Media Narratives Amid COVID-19 Are Not Helping South Asians

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Prime Minister Imran Khan’s telethon on April 23rd featuring Maulana Tariq Jamil and his tweet on April 19 calling Modi regime Nazi and supremacist need to be studied together as both these public acts are rooted in populism.

Outbreak of coronavirus in the age of populist leaders of the world is a double jeopardy for humanity.

People of Pakistan are fortunate enough to call bluff of populist leaders better than the people of India, according to Prof Husnul Amin, Fulbright Fellow at South Asia Centre, University of Pennsylvania and Stockton University, USA.

In the case of the telethon, seeking alms and forgiveness through wet eyes were touted as the solution to the pandemic that was caused supposedly because women wear short dresses and media people tell lies.

Misogyny and other odious concepts are not part of Islam, though they are in the nature of clerics, Prof Amin told me. This misogynist narrative is part of feudal culture and has nothing to do with religion, he said.

Throughout Islamic history, courtier clerics or scholars have been disliked, he said. Imam Abu Hanifa and others did not accept opportunities to be courtiers and faced torture and imprisonment due to their principled stance.

I had written review of Prof Amin’s book ‘Observing Variants of Post-Islamism: Intellectual Discourse and Social Movements’ for Pakistan Journal of History and Culture. Prof Amin thinks that Islamism was impractical at best and a state-sponsored terrorism project at worst, which is why it’s over now. He is a disciple of Javed Ahmed Ghamidi.

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The telethon looked like a botched bid to inject life in the fading cause of Islamism.

On April 19, ZeeNews ran a transmission selling a heady brew of why Pakistani establishment wants PM Khan out of office. They also refreshed their propaganda that coronavirus is spread due to Muslims, fanned by Pakistan. “This is racialization of pandemic. The West used to do it at the start thinking that Bengalis and Indians are source of these diseases. Now Modi is doing that,” said Prof Amin.

However, this transmission was followed by an angry tweet by PM Khan, provoking the world community to act.

The Nazi tactics of RSS and BJP under Modi are no secret, nor do they pretend otherwise.

Other than Pakistan, China is the worst thing that has happened to the world, ZeeNews continues hammering down in the heads of its audience. Live footage of Chinese president and other leaders are aired with a background commentary that they are enemies of humanity, the merchants of corona and manipulators of the worst kind.

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But no top Chinese leader has taken it upon himself to steer back a Twitter storm as they perhaps know that it is not worth it. Instead, the lower level officials give their replies and discredit the propaganda.

Even if it was not the cause of that tweet, this reactionary angle should have been kept in mind as these tweets are cited with their timing by the likes of Sudhir Chaudhry in their Indian TV shows.

Prof. Amin says that people of Pakistan have not bought the populist narratives but Indians are still following Modi. He said they should learn a lesson from Pakistan that when someone breeds violent groups, it becomes harder for them to remove him.

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Naya Daur