While much of the Western world is in quarantine and many fear that the worst is still yet to come from the coronavirus, many Muslims around the world aren’t worried at all: they are sure that Allah will protect them from the plague. As a result, they’re gathering in large numbers, thereby endangering their coreligionists and infidels alike.
While most mosques in the Toronto area (where Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency) have closed, some are stubbornly staying open. Zahir Bacchus, who serves as the imam at Jamiat Al Ansar in Brampton, Ontario and belongs to the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI), said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has put Muslims in uncharted territory. We’ve asked Muslims to pray at home, pray with their families and loved ones — just don’t come to the mosque.”
The imams of the CCI believe that the Muslims who are not heeding this advice are reflecting an “allegiance to certain foreign scholars not heeding the calls, and in the process endangering Canadian lives.”
There is certainly no shortage of “foreign scholars” who are claiming that the virus doesn’t infect Muslims. In Iraq, Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr declared: “One of the most appalling things that have caused this epidemic is the legalization of same-sex marriage. Hence, I call on all governments to repeal this law immediately and without any hesitation.” In the meantime, hundreds of his followers gathered in a mosque and chanted “coronavirus has terrified you.” What could possibly go wrong?
Hundreds of Muslims also defied quarantine regulations and crowded into mosques in Cameroon; of them, a student named Koulanya Abo, declared: “This is a time people have to go to the mosque and pray ceaselessly. Anything out of that will not be tolerated by Allah, because this is a period where people are facing a lot of difficulties due to the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19.”
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Yemeni Islamic scholar Ibrahim Al-Ubeidi explained that many of these difficulties people were facing were the fault of, you guessed it, the Jews. He explained that Jews, working with Americans, had cooked up the coronavirus as part of their nefarious plan to seize control of the two holiest sites in Islam, the mosques in Mecca and Medina. This was, he said, all part of the larger scheme to “Judaize” Mecca and Medina that led the Jews to place the House of Saud on the throne of Arabia 100 years ago.
That’s weapons-grade conspiracy paranoia, and it isn’t al-Ubeidi’s alone. In Pakistan, jihad group leader Hafiz Aakif Saeed said that the coronavirus was “the wrath of Allah Almighty, befalling largely on the developed world and their oppressor rulers who had subjected innocent Muslims to persecution and genocide over the last 50 years.” And in Nigeria, a Muslim leader, Sheikh Sani Jingir, claimed that coronavirus was a Western conspiracy designed to prevent Muslims from performing the rites of their religion. Jingir “insisted that coronavirus was not real,” and “said any Muslims who believed in Trump and stopped praying at the Holy Mosque in Mecca should seek for God’s forgiveness.”
In a similar vein, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute MEMRI, an imam in Gaza, Jamil Al-Mutawa, preached a sermon in which he said that Allah was afflicting non-Muslims with coronavirus while sparing Muslims. Allah “has sent just one soldier,” he said, referring to the coronavirus. “What would happen had he sent 50 like the coronavirus? He has sent just one soldier and it has hit all 50 [American] states. An hour ago, they said on TV that in California… They said that they expect 58% of California to be infected within two months. They talk about 25 million infected people in just one of the 50 states. Allah be praised. Look how anyone who schemes against the Al-Aqsa Mosque is being shattered to smithereens by the soldiers of Allah.” He spoke about Israel in the same way: “Look how empty the [Israeli] cities are. Look how empty their streets are and look how crowded this mosque is. Who is it that has given us security and terrified them? Who is it that has protected us and harmed them? It is,” he said, triumphantly drawing the word out, “Allaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”
Al-Mutawa added: “The Muslims are the people who are least infected. The only country where nobody has died… When I entered this mosque, I received a text message that the 56 people who had been quarantined in Bethlehem have been completely healed by the grace of Allah. Brothers, before I entered the mosque, I contacted senior doctors, and they told me that as of this moment, there is not a single case in Gaza.”
The next day, coronavirus cases were confirmed in Gaza, but that is not likely to have changed al-Mutawa’s mind: he knows his dogmas are truer than the data of experience.
Also, when reality is uncomfortable, one can simply fabricate a world that is more to one’s liking. India’s Alt News reported Thursday that a video claiming that President Trump is participating in Islamic prayers in order to ward off coronavirus has gone viral. The text accompanying the vide says: “The world’s most powerful country also acknowledged the power of the Quran and read the Quran in the White House and prayed for Crona [sic], share this, respect every religion.” However, you may be surprised to learn that the President is not really turning to Islam: the video is really from an interfaith service Trump attended in 2017.
Denial and wishful thinking are terrible tools for confronting the coronavirus. The worst part of all this is that others who have been more prudent may be infected by those who have given themselves over to these fantasies.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.