While the COVID-19 calls for the world to reboot itself and transform the social, business, and economic models, what remains unaddressed is the need to collectively fight the religious discrimination that exists in different societies across the world. The religious discrimination in Pakistan continues even during a pandemic situation. Some of the major instances include addressing the COVID-19 as the ‘Shia virus’, asking the Christians to recite kalima for receiving the ration bags, and refusing the ration bags to the Hindu community in Lyari after seeing their National Identity Cards.
Witnessing such bigotry against the religious minorities during a crisis is both shocking and saddening, to say the least. In March a video that went viral on social media, showed a man informing the reporter how the Christian community in his neighbour were denied the food bags in the Korangi area of Karachi. The same incident was reported in Sandha village in the Kasur district of Punjab where about 100 Christian families were denied the aid because of their religious identity. A Muslim man later distributed food among the Christian community.
Besides, the Hazara community which constituted a small part of the returnees from Iran were continuously blamed for the spread of the virus, while such stigma was not attached to the business community who has also returned from Iran in February. Also, the Hazaras living in Hazara Town and Marriabad were asked to stay in their homes as per the official notification issued by the Water and Sanitation Authority.
Such discrimination based on religion and ethnicity tends to have a severe psychological impact on the entire community. There is a dire need to promote pluralism, and fight the in-built prejudice that has been ingrained in the masses, or else the religious discrimination will continue to plague our society.