Before you read on: Yes in the title I wrote Muslims because the majority of the readership of this website is Muslim and I’m Muslim. As such this article will cover some points relating specifically to risks faced by Muslims and BAME but whoever you are take extra precautions with Covid-19. With lockdowns easing across the world, whether you are ethnically White, Black, Asian, African, Muslim or non-Muslim take extra precautions. An ease in lockdown rules does not mean it is safe, it means that if you get ill there is room for you in ICU.
The UK Muslim community, as well as other communities from BAME backgrounds, have seen a larger proportion of deaths from Covid-19. This article explore four factors which put Muslims at higher risk of dying from the Coronavirus.
1. Conspiracy Theories
Owing to the fact that I am from the Muslim community, I have seen the conspiracy theories relating to Covid-19 which did their rounds in our community. Here is a list of some of the Whatsapp forwarded messages I have received which are all completely baseless and false:
- A man who said chewing an onion non-stop for 15 minutes will rid you of Coronavirus
- A woman telling people in Punjabi that Doctors are actively trying to kill people as they claim money for each death
- The many many videos claiming 5G network towers are causing the virus
- Videos of an osteopath who has been reprimanded by medical boards for being unethical, as well Muslims sharing videos by a man who claimed he was the son of God
- A message claiming Bill Gates had created the virus in order to depopulate the world
- A message “They knew before” showing Dettol kills Coronavirus, suggesting Dettol knew about this particular Coronavirus before it came out
- A message claiming America had made the virus as a bioweapon against China despite more people now having died in the USA compared to China
- An Urdu voice message claiming cosmic rays will hit the country tonight causing your phone to blow up and kill you
- The many messages telling people not to take the vaccine when it comes out as they claim it will kill you
- A message claiming there is no Coronavirus, its a government/big pharma conspiracy to increase their authoritarian powers/give mandatory vaccines
- A message claiming covering your mouth with a cloth is as good as an FP3 mask
- A whatsapp video of a man saying he does not fear the virus as he has Taqwa
- A theory that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had engineered the lock down because King Salman has died and he wanted to assume power
Let’s just debunk a few of them. Doctors do not make any money if someone dies, they generally are altruistic in nature which is what drove them to pursue such a difficult medical degree, they are not trying to kill you. If a person has been reprimanded by a medical board for being unethical, or if someone has previously claimed to be the son of God…it may be a better idea to go with people who are ethical and have not made outlandish claims. Whatever you think of Bill Gates, I care not but he is simply not capable of creating such a virus, nor is America, Big Pharma or the government. Cosmic rays cause radio interference, they do not blow up phones. Vaccines are tested by scientists who don’t make much money, their employers at Big Pharma make profit, but the scientists who are making this vaccine are not motivated to harm you.
Coronavirus is the name of a family viruses, this virus in particular is called Covid-19 and belongs to a family of Coronaviruses. Companies selling antibacterial detergents will advertise what they have tested it can kill and because other Coronaviruses have spread in the past, they know of the family of Coronaviruses. They did not know of Covid-19
Cloth protects somewhat but not the same as an FP1, FP2 or FP3 mask. There has been no proven link between 5G towers and susceptibility to contracting Covid-19 or any other illness. In fact some countries which have suffered from many coronavirus cases have no 5G coverage such as Sweden, Malaysia, Iran and Indian-Occupied Kashmir.
Fear is of two types in Islam: Tab’ee and Imaani. Imaani fear is for Allah but Tab’ee is for times when you are faced with something and move away from it, like a lion out of its enclosure coming toward you. And the Prophet ﷺ said to flee from a leper the way you flee from a lion. Leprosy is a contagious disease.
Finally King Salman is fit and healthy. Also Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman does not have the capability to shut down the entire world due to Coronavirus.
These conspiracies harm. After people shared vaccine conspiracies, I personally know someone who did not vaccinate their children and their daughter ended up having life-long consequences due to contracting Rubella.
These Coronavirus conspiracies have no doubt meant that some in our community have taken this disease lightly and as a result may have continued to meet family and friends. These people could be young and can fight off the virus but in their irresponsible approach, meet their grandparents or those with underlying health conditions causing seriously illness and even death.
It has meant people fear going to Hospital thinking the Doctors are not trying to save them and we know the sooner you treat Covid-19 the better your chances are of survival.
No doubt conspiracy theories have spread in every community. Non-Muslims have stopped drinking the beer Corona thinking it causes Coronavirus, people have shared a video of a man claiming Italians made it because “Corona” is an Italian word and the majority of the viewership of conspiracy theories are not Muslims.
Islam, though, is a religion of proof where everything must be verified. This is a perfect example of when Muslims need to follow the command of Allah:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.49:6Quran 49:6
2. Ethnic Background
The Muslim community of the UK is made up of mainly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, African and other minority groups. These ethnic minorities are all more at risk than people from a White Caucasian background.
The UK population consists of 3.3% Black and 7.5% Asian people. However 10.3% Black and 15.4% Asian people have become critically ill due to Covid-19. People from a Black ethnic background are 1.9 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than people of White background. Similarly from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds men were 1.8 times and women 1.6 times more likely to die compared to White men and women. People of Indian and other backgrounds were still more significantly more likely to die from Covid-19 compared to people from a White background.
The higher number of deaths amongst BAME may be due to people from ethnic backgrounds being more likely to suffer from underlying health conditions or due to a lack of Vitamin D. The reasons are not yet clear.
3. NHS Workers
We heard the harrowing news that one of the first NHS lives claimed by Covid-19 was a Muslim Dr Adil El Tayar followed by Muslim doctors Dr Habib Zaidi and Dr Amged El-Hawrani. We saw Nurse Areema Nasreen lose her battle against Covid-19 and Non-Muslims from BAME backgrounds also died very early on including Charles Tanor, Pooja Sharma and Thomas Harvey. This is not to say people of White ethnicity were saved, sadly we saw Andy Howe, Dr Erwin Spannagl, John Doyle and Laura Tanner among the first to lose their lives to Covid-19.
14% of the UK population is from a non-White background but 21% of the NHS is made up of people from non-White backgrounds (20% nursing and 44% medical staff are BAME). As discussed above, BAME background have a higher chance of dying from Coronavirus and are highly represented in the NHS. Compared with their NHS Staff groups, deaths from BAME individuals made up 63%, 64% and 95%.
4. Closer Community
Pakistani, Indians and Bangladeshis are more likely to have more generations living under one roof. This is due to there being a culture of families staying closer together and of looking after elderly parents.
This coupled with the fact that when mosques open up we can meet at the mosque five times a day or at least once a week on Juma, puts Muslims at higher risk of coming into contact with someone who has the virus. The UK government has not said it is going to open places of worship but the USA, Pakistan and Indonesia have said they will open mosques. There is a chance more people will be allowed to attend funerals and pray Janaza in the UK.
If people are to attend mosques then there are things which can be discussed with religious leaders. Such as if the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions and those who look after them should attend. The mosques could consider practicing social distancing as seen in Makkah’s Masjid Al Haram and hugging or shaking hands could be banned.
When our community saw one of the first Covid-19 deaths before the government had implement the lock down, I saw people get together for condolences at the house of the deceased. It is understandable that such a time is difficult and you would want to be there for your family and friends, however because the government had not announced a lock down people still met up. This will undoubtedly have caused a spread and death in the community as detailed in a BBC News article.
What does this all mean?
As we saw a higher rate of spread in our communities, we need to be extra cautious. Believing conspiracy theories can lead to taking this pandemic lightly or going to see family even at difficult times or believing in taqwa in a way which is wrong, will lead to you harming yourself or your loved ones.
The government’s advice goes so far, it asks you to be careful yourself. This means you need to take responsibility for your own risks.
Quaranting and Social Distancing are from Islam
Social distancing: We are from a religion that saw Amr ibn al Aas رضي الله عنه gave a sermon at the beginning of a plague:
“O people, this sickness once it spreads, it will spread like wildfire, seek protection by taking shelter in the mountain area” once he finished giving the sermon the people all separated themselves from one another and Allah removed the sickness. It reached Umar ibn Al Khattab رضي الله عنه and he approved of it.
Quaranting: Umar رضي الله عنه went to Syria when a plague was there and went back. Abu Ubayda رضي الله عنه asked him why he is “fleeing from the will of Allah” to which Umar رضي الله عنه replied “Would that another had said so, O Abu Ubayda! Yes, we are fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah. Do you not see that if you had camels descending in a valley with two fields, one of them fertile and the other barren, you would graze in the fertile field by the decree of Allah or you would graze in the barren field by the decree of Allah?”
Strict Quarantining: Abu Ubayda رضي الله عنه stayed in the area due to quarantining even when given the option of escaping. He died there and The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever dies from a plague is a martyr” and the he ﷺ also said “Whoever remains in a plague-ridden land patiently and hopeful of reward, knowing that only what Allah decrees will reach him, will get the reward of a martyr.”
It’s time we became a nation of evidence like we were in the golden ages, not people who go whichever direction the waves take them and pass on any report we hear.
So, whichever ethnic community you belong to and whether you are Muslim or not: Protect your families, protect yourselves and please take this very seriously as lives are at stake.