(PREPRINT) Curtailed Worship, Conspiracy Theories, and Hollywood Dystopias: Reacting to the COVID-19 Pandemic among the Reformists 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 Muslims 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 (the Christ Embassy and the Living Faith). As we show, despite many differences and even the 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 a work of the devil) or rejected the very existence of coronavirus and presented the pandemic as the Western conspiracy designed to stop Muslim and Christian religious activities in Nigeria.
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