Imam Qari Asim Criticises Matt Hancock Over Social Distancing Claims26 Oct 2020
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has been criticised by the government’s own Islamophobia adviser for unsubstantiated claims about people “not abiding to social distancing” at the start of Eid al-Adha earlier this year.
The deputy chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group and head of the Mosques and Imams Advisory Board (MINAB), Imam Qari Asim MBE, said that the Secretary of State had contributed to the “hateful narratives” about Muslims breaking social distancing guidelines.
The Northern Lockdown Was Declared Just Hours Before Eid
Imam Asim’s comments came from the handling of the northern lockdown on July 30th which was announced just three hours before it came to force and on Twitter.
On Twitter, Hancock justified the lockdown on grounds that many households were not abiding by social distancing. The last-minute announcement also left many communities unaware and confused.
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, far-right sites and social media networks went on a “frenzy” blaming Muslims for spreading the coronavirus.
Commenting on the matter, police chiefs, MPs from all parties and Muslim leaders criticised Hancock’s announcement as a “shameless scapegoating of Muslims”. The timing couldn’t have been a coincidence!
Furthermore, the inconsistent and haphazard way the announcement was made just before Eid led to many Muslims feeling “used, confused and abused”.
In order to discredit false claims about Muslims, a freedom of information request was made to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The Department said that it has evidence supporting the claims made by Hancock but refused to publish it, claiming it would jeopardise “the internal deliberative process as it relates to policymaking”.
“It’s Only Right That Full Data is Made Public to Make Things Clearer”
Qari Asim was among those who criticised DHSC for not publishing the statistics.
Speaking on Monday, Qari Asim said that Hancock’s claim gave the impression that Muslim communities were not social distancing and were ignoring the government guidelines. Therefore, it’s only right that full data is made public to make things clearer.”
Qari Asim added that online Islamophobia had noticeably spiked after the announcement, with many blaming Muslims for the new lockdown.
Qari Asim is not alone in his assessment. Shortly before Hancock made his announcement, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned that the perceived inconsistency and unfairness of how and where the lockdowns come into effect could lead to unrest and be exploited by far-right groups.
Unfortunately, it appears they were right! Will lessons be learned?