Curtailed Worship, Conspiracy Theories, and Hollywood Dystopias: Reactions to the COVID-19 Pandemic among the Reformist Muslims and Pentecostal Christians in Nigeria
AbstractCOVID-19 has affected all spheres of human activities, including religion, in Nigeria. Due to its devastating effect, the state was compelled to introduce precautionary and preventive measures to reduce its spread in the country, including lockdown, ban on gatherings, and social distancing. This extraordinary situation caused different reactions among Muslim and Christian religious leaders, with some accepting COVID-19 and the restrictions and others rejecting them. This work focuses on the response to the pandemic by prominent reformist Muslim groups (the Izala and NASFAT) and two major Pentecostal Churches (Christ Embassy and Living Faith). As we show, despite many differences and even hostility between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, Muslim and Christian leaders formulated similar responses to COVID-19. Namely, they either interpreted the pandemic in spiritual rather medical terms (as God’s punishment or the work of the devil) or rejected the very existence of the coronavirus and presented the pandemic as a Western conspiracy designed to stop Muslim and Christian religious activities in Nigeria.
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