Sermons with misinformation spread panic and confusion

Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 00:44, Mar 18,2020


Misinformation, fabricated stories on and fake magic cure for the spread of the novel coronavirus across the globe are being disseminated through many sermons on the internet as at least 10 COVID-19 cases have been detected in the country to date. 

Such sermons were in fact spreading panic and confusion among the people instead of contributing to placating fear in this grave situation, experts viewed.

The lectures centred on bigotry are misrepresenting Islam, the religion of harmony and peace, they said.

The contents of these sermons are hateful and such irrational beliefs usually go to creating bigots, according to some experts.

Soon after the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in mid-December, some religious preachers came up with some courageous comments linking the fatal virus with the alleged repression of Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. A speaker at a sermon said that coronavirus was the result of Chinese authorities’ subjugation on Uighur Muslims and a divine retribution for shutting down mosques.

The speaker, Tarek Monowar, in another recent sermon, told audience that a singer who criticised azan has recently visited Bangladesh and performed at a stadium. The virus is now searching for people who holds anti-Muslim ideologies and would soon wreak havoc on them.

Another speaker Kazi Ibrahim, whose sermon went viral on social media platform, claimed that he had interviewed coronavirus in a dream and invented the formula to cure people of the disease. He also claimed that his formula to combat the virus sparked huge reactions in the US and scientists there started studying his interview and formula.

Another speaker claimed that people only believed that only Muslims would be spared from coronavirus and the rest of humanity will face the consequences.

Another speaker Amir Hamza said during a sermon that if God wished he could kill 7 crore people by coronavirus in one night. It is not a difficult task for God.

What is more appalling is that a broadcast journalist received an online death threat for reporting the spread of such misinformation through sermons.

Ahidul Islam, journalist of private television channel Ekatttor TV, filed a general dairy with the Tejgaon Police Station on Monday.

Ahidul Islam said he covered the issue and Ekatttor TV had aired his reports in four episodes on the absurd and provocative contents of the sermons recently.

Immediately after the reports were broadcast, several users posted death threats against him online. Another speaker M Hasibur Rahman threatened him during one of his sermons.

Tejgaon police sub-inspector Nizamuddin is investigating the case and trying to trace the people who posted the death threats.

Dhaka University professor of Islamic studies Mohammad Abdur Rashid said that such fabricated sermons are actually misrepresenting Islam. People who do not have any knowledge about the issue are giving expert opinions in such sermons. Islam prohibits spreading panic and fear-provoking information among people, but, these preachers were only spreading terror and bigotry among people.

The professor told New Age that some preachers are trying to draw people’s attention and increase their popularity by taking the opportunity of the situation. Their tools are religious prejudice and intolerance.

As several Muslim majority countries have been severely affected by the deadly virus, there is no scope for speculation about whether Muslims were any less affected by the disease.

He warned that if such sermons were not checked immediately it can cause more panic and lead to much confusion about the new virus in the county.

‘The government must address the issue and consult with these preachers who are spreading fake information to contain them. If required strong steps must be taken,’ professor Rashid added.

When approached, state minister for religious affairs Sheikh Md Abdullah told New Age that they were aware of such sermons and considering strong actions since these preachers are distorting the very essence of Islam.

‘Islamic Foundation has undertaken training for imams and Islamic scholars who will fight such religious bigotry with proper messages of Islam,’ the minister said.

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