Marginalized in a Pandemic
Marginalized in a Pandemic

Communities on the margins in Pakistan face challenges as COVID-19 spreads and right-wing organizations continue to fan hatred against them.

Minarat-ul-Massih and the Liwa-e-Ahmadiyya in Qadian (Wikimedia)

Minarat-ul-Massih and the Liwa-e-Ahmadiyya in Qadian (Wikimedia)

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads in Pakistan, residents of major cities such as Lahore and Karachi encountered an unusual event. The five-times daily call to prayer, which usually concludes at sunset, began again at 10 p.m. Local muezzins recited the azan from mosque loudspeakers and citizens echoed the call from rooftops and balconies. 

An azan like this usually occurs at a time of difficulty, when Muslims call for God’s mercy and protection. For many cloistered and isolated in their homes with social media as their only outlet, the late-night azan offered both comfort and solidarity. 

Pakistan now has 4,263 confirmed coronavirus cases and 61 have died. After waffling for a few weeks, the federal government deployed the army to assist provincial governments with their partial lockdowns on March 23, expected to continue until April 14. Prime Minister Imran Khan had hesitated to institute a full shutdown partly because the majority of Pakistanis rely on daily wages to survive. 

But for many Pakistanis, especially religious and gender minorities, the immunocompromised, and the poor, the pandemic is the least of their worries in comparison to the reality of possible or definite starvation, unemployment, violence, and bigotry. As the newly isolated uni

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