Among other hateful consequences, the pandemic has sparked anti-semitic conspiracy theories and Islamophobic attacks.
Rabat – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called today for global solidarity against hate, in light of offensive communications prompted by the spreading pandemic.
“We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,” Guterres said, initiating his speech.
“The pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobic, scapegoating and scaremongering,” Guterres continued.
The UN chief said that nationalist sentiment has been on the rise as COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe. “Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.”
The secretary-general highlighted attacks on journalists, health professionals, aid workers, and human rights defenders who “are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”
The pandemic has also sparked anti-semitic conspiracy theories and prompted Islamophobic attacks linked to the virus, the UN chief explained.
Islamophobia and COVID-19
A recent report from the UK-based Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group (AMHWG) warned that far-right claims that Muslims spread COVID-19, including doctored footage wrongly suggesting mosques are still open, could prompt Islamophobic attacks after the UK lifts its lockdown.
“We’ve found that COVID-19 has been used by the far-right to peddle Islamophobic hate,” wrote Imran Awran, a professor of crimonology at Birmingham City University and one of the report’s authors. We found “that stereotypes fuelled by conspiracy theories, memes and fake videos create the perfect climate for the demonisation of Muslims,” he continued.
India has already witnessed a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment during the pandemic. The hashtag #coronajihad went viral in the country when COVID-19 infections spread after an Islamic conference in Delhi, even though many different religions continued to gather after India began warning of the pandemic. Hindu nationalists have since taken to the streets, attacking Muslims in mobs.
In contrast to the general increase in fear-mongering and finger-pointing, Guterres recalled the 2019 UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech. “As we combat this pandemic, we have a duty to protect people, end stigma and prevent violence,” he stressed.
Renewed calls for solidarity
Guterres called on all stakeholders to act in solidarity and stand against hate speech, including political leaders and civil society.
The UN chief also appealed to social media companies to flag and remove racist, misogynist, and harmful content in line with international human rights law. The plea follows Facebook’s May 6 announcement of its controversial content oversight board.
Guterres previously warned the Security Council about the COVID-19 pandemic’s far-reaching implications on global peace and security.
The spread of COVID-19 “poses a significant threat to the maintenance of international peace and security–potentially leading to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease,” said the official on April 9.
Guterres repeated his assertion that international solidarity is key for countries to defeat the “gravest test since the founding” of the UN in 1945.
At a press conference on April 27, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that national unity is the foundation for global solidarity and the solution to the global crisis.
“Solidarity, solidarity, solidarity—that’s what we will say every single day,” he emphasized.
Ghebreyesus explained that the virus will not be defeated if the world is not united and that the pandemic will “exploit the cracks” between nations and continue to wreak “havoc.”