When the Black Plague ravaged Europe in the middle of the 14th Century, killing roughly 50 per cent of those infected and one-third of the continent’s population at the time, rumours spread that Jewish people were poisoning wells to spread the disease. Six hundred years later, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party characterised typhus as the Jewish plague, which became the rationale for the delousing baths, a “camouflage for the gas chambers.”

In the age of a viral pandemic, specifically Covid-19, Muslims have replaced Jews as the world’s most scapegoated religious minority. It’s a clear demonstration of how anti-Semitism and Islamophobia remain inextricably tied, and also emphasises how the coronavirus crisis is not only a health issue but also one that poses an existential threat to social cohesion, given it is weaponised to exacerbate long-standing hatreds – but particularly against Muslims. “When there are big epidemics, people get scared,” Martin J. Blaser, a historian and professor of medicine and microbiology at Rutgers University told The Jewish News. “They often look to blame some kind of intruder or stranger. It has happened especially with the Jews.”

In India, a 22-year-old Muslim man from New Delhi was lynched and viciously assaulted on Sunday after a mob of Hindu thugs falsely accused him of plotting to spread coronavirus in his home village.

These attacks didn’t take place in a vacuum but within the context of a well-orchestrated and sophisticated campaign by pro-government Hindu nationalists to blame Muslims for the spread of the virus. This claim of a concerted campaign is supported by an investigation conducted by Voyager Infosec, a New Delhi based digital lab, which identified more than 30,000 videos targeted at Muslims on the social media platform TikTok.

SEHISH KHAN,

Islamabad.