Liberals often postulate that if only other people were as logical and as ‘science-minded’ as they are, then the world will automatically be a better place to live in. But they are often perplexed by the fact that even with all the great advancements in science and technology, religion is just as dominant as it was in the days of yore. All of this, of course, isn’t surprising at all. As renowned social psychologist Jonathan Haidt pointed out, humans reach moral conclusions intuitively and use logic and rationality to justify those beliefs. And the reaction of Islamists and liberals to the Wuhan Coronavirus is quite the perfect demonstration of it.
Another aspect of human behaviour is that people have a set of beliefs which we can call the ‘mental set’, when they encounter novel situations, they use logic and rational behaviour to approach to situation based on the ‘mental set’ that they have already developed over the years. Religious beliefs, as important as they are, are significant aspects of the ‘mental set’ and hence, affect a person’s assessment of novel situations greatly. All of this has been perfectly illustrated by the manner in which some Muslims and apologists of Islam have approached the Wuhan Coronavirus.
Unfortunately, our mental set can sometimes make us behave and speak in ways that are completely delusional. The Print, recently, reproduced an article originally published elsewhere where it was claimed that “We are all Niqabis now”. The author, who happens to be a lecturer on Islamic Politics at the University of Toronto, claims that the Wuhan Coronavirus crisis.has revealed the hypocrisy of the bans on the Niqab in Canada and France. The two, of course, have nothing to do with each other but when one’s ‘mental set’ is predisposed towards engaging in apologia over the vilest of Islamist traditions, every tragedy is an opportunity to advocate even more delusional defence of Islamism.
The author, Katherine Bullock, argues, “Is a face mask used to help block coronavirus really that different from a niqab? Both are garments worn for a specific purpose, in a specific place and for a specific time only. It is not worn 24/7. Once the purpose is over, the mask and niqab come off. The calling of the sacred motivates some to wear the niqab. A highly infectious disease propels many to wear face masks.” She concludes her apologia of the Islamist tradition, which does not pay any attention to the brutal oppression associated with the garment, with the words, “If we all start wearing masks does it mean we have succumbed to a form of oppression? Are we submissive? Does it mean we cannot communicate with each other? If we are in Québec, will we be denied employment at a daycare? Refused a government service? Not allowed on the bus?”
The Niqab, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with face masks. Drawing a similarity between the two is like comparing Sattvik food with cannibalism. Yes, both are technically food but only someone delusional will make a defence of Cannibalism by drawing a similarity with Sattvik food. Of course, the author’s mental set makes her predisposed towards finding validation for Islamist traditions in a global pandemic. Anyone with half a working brain realises this but the influence of our mental set is often so strong that it often makes us abandon all semblance of sanity. The lecturer on Islamic politics is not the only person whose mental set has made her behave and speak in completely delusional ways. It has been most prevalent, unfortunately again, among the Muslim population.
Maulana Saad of Tablighi Jamaat said in a sermon on the 23rd of March at the Markaz Nizamuddin, “This is the time to fill the mosques. I have been saying this since beginning that this is the time to fill up the mosques. Do not come into the talks to empty the mosques. In fact, it is the time to increases the mosques.” He added, “Those who have no faith in Allah, through these schemes and excuses of trying to save Muslims from the disease are trying to keep us away. They have found an excuse to keep Muslims away from coming here. They want to put this fear in the Muslims that those who gather in huge numbers can get infected. The disease will pass but the fear will not. This is a tactic to create fear amongst the Muslims and to end the love and brotherhood Muslims have amongst each other. This is a program created. This program is created against Muslims to make them appear ‘untouchables’. They think this is a good excuse to do this. There is no problem in staying away from those who have caught the infection. But Muslims should not meet Muslims? This is ‘jihalat‘.”
“This is not the time to leave mosques and disperse. Why did people believe that gathering in group will spread coronavirus? Why did people not believe that if we come together then Allah will send angels and with the help of angels the peace will return to the world,” the Maulana said further. He stated, “If you start listening to doctors and stop doing the namaaz and stop meeting people… yes, so you are sick, then pray to the 70,000 angels. Why are you not having faith in the angels? How will you be cured by taking medicines from doctor if you cannot be saved by the 70,000 angels? This is not the time to stay away and be afraid.”
Later, of course, the Tablighi Jamaat emerged as the largest vector for the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus. His mental set corrupted his brain so badly that even on the face of a grave pandemic, he could not bring himself to realise the enormity of the threat posed by the virus and instead, he interpreted the directions of the government as an attack against Islam. It is a classic manifestation of the paranoid delusions that certain sections of the Muslim community suffers from and on this occasion, it ended up costing a lot of lives and jeopardising the safety and security of the entire country.
Unfortunately, Maulana Saad was not the only who acted in such a fashion. Muslims on TikTok, the video sharing platform, were going around calling the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic “Allah’s NRC”. It only reveals the depth of the hatred that the said individuals have against the Hindu community and the deep-seated loyalty that motivates them to prioritise the Ummah over their country. Apart from them, there were of course those who advocated Namaz as a cure for the Wuhan Coronavirus and condemned social distancing which is the only known way as of now to prevent the virus from spreading. And all of this was because their mental set predisposed them towards believing that the virus was a conspiracy against their religious indentity.
The examples, of course, are endless. The erstwhile protesters at Shaheen Bagh claimed that “Washing hands regularly is part of our lifestyle. We offer namaz five times a day and we wash our hands every time,” implying that they were safe from the virus. In a viral video, one of the protesters could be heard dismissing the threat of the Novel Coronavirus claiming that Corona emerged from the Quran. Several protestors did not believe that the pandemic is a threat because the Anti-CAA protests were supposedly a ‘call from Allah‘.
It only goes on to show the impact that our mental set has in the manner in which we process our environment and novel situations. It also shows that religious beliefs play a great part in forming our mental set. We use logic and rationality based on our mental set to reach conclusions. This is not to say, however, that all religions form the same kind of mental set. It is a fact that certain religions are more prone towards completely distorting our perception of reality. The Muslim population and liberals appear to be particularly vulnerable towards such a crisis, which can be devastating for their health as the Wuhan Coronavirus has demonstrated. Compared to them, Hindus and religious people of other hues have reacted to the virus in a much better way. The whole pandemic also demonstrates that religious beliefs also strengthen by calamitous events, not weaken, as certain individuals would have us believe.