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Religious extremists are making the coronavirus pandemic even worse

Whether in the Iranian shrine city of Qom or the Bible Belt of the United States, the zealots are even claiming they hold the cure to the pandemic, writes Borzou Daragahi

Monday 30 March 2020 14:42 BST
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Jewish temples in Israel, identified as one of the hotspots for the spread of coronavirus, only agreed to shut last week, well into the country’s outbreak
Jewish temples in Israel, identified as one of the hotspots for the spread of coronavirus, only agreed to shut last week, well into the country’s outbreak (Reuters)

In the American state of Louisiana, a Christian preacher defies authorities worried about the spread of the novel coronavirus and insists on holding a service that draws 1,000 people. In Pakistan, a gathering of nearly a quarter of a million Muslims in late February, held despite warnings of coronavirus, has been pinpointed as a “super-spreader” of the virus across the world. Jewish temples in Israel, identified as one of the hotspots for the spread of coronavirus, finally agreed to shut just a few days ago, well into an outbreak that is rapidly spreading across the country.

Religious extremists across the world, and in nearly every faith, are contributing to a global pandemic by refusing to abide by scientific advice and hold off on gatherings. Whether in the Iranian shrine city of Qom or the Bible Belt of the United States, the zealots are sometimes even touting their hocus pocus as cures to the pandemic.

All too often governments worried about alienating pious supporters are buckling to their pressure. Pakistani officials, for example, advised but did not order the organisers of the five-day Tablighi Ijtema gathering near Lahore to cancel the gathering. Organisers refused to heed them, drawing tens of thousands of religious scholars who later may have seeded the outbreak across the planet.

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