(PREPRINT) Going Viral: Online Intersections of the Virus, Politics, and Religion during the COVID-19 Pandemic in India and Pakistan
AbstractIncreased numbers of patients from ‘superspreading’ mass religious gatherings, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stigmatised as used by persons who are “weak of faith”, refusals to seek treatment based on religious beliefs, and internal conflict between faith and biomedicine are just a few examples of how cultural and religious contexts have shaped discourse on the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the impact of religious interpretations of illness, and religious events and mass gatherings as contributing to the spread of Coronavirus, this article explores the intersections between religion and the current pandemic using two case study countries from South Asia—India and Pakistan. The authors analyse governmental and public responses to the outbreak though social media data from India and Pakistan collected from December 2019 to May 2020. This time period, importantly, covered early online discussions about the outbreak, a ‘superspreading’ Tablighi Jammaat mass religious event with transnational implications between these two nations, and the Holy Month of Ramadan (April–May 2020).
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