‘Corona Jihad’

Examining Anti-Muslim Narratives in India during the Covid-19 Pandemic

  • Heba Ahmed Jawaharlal Nehru University
Keywords: Corona Jihad, Thook Jihad, Islamophobia, hate speech, scapegoats, Indian Muslims


This article argues that during the Covid-19 pandemic in India, anti-Muslim narratives and disinformation were disseminated through mass media, social media and statements of government leaders. This led to the spread of Islamophobia, as indicated by the use of ‘Corona Jihad’ as a neologism during the pandemic. As a result, Muslims and Muslim organisations such as the Tablighi Jamaat were scapegoated and blamed for spreading Covid cases. They were targeted through hate speeches, socio-economic boycott campaigns and arrests by police. While several writings (quoted in this article) have explained and critiqued the notion of ‘Corona Jihad’, this article argues that ‘Corona Jihad’ is one of the many iterations of jihad depicted by Hindu nationalists in Islamophobic conspiracy beliefs against Muslims. These narratives of jihad are symptomatic of the essentialisation of Indian Muslims as the internal enemy of the Indian state.    

Author Biography

Heba Ahmed, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Heba Ahmed is a PhD student at Centre for Political Studies (CPS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Her doctoral research is on the history of immigrant Bihari Muslims as labourers in colonial Calcutta. She completed her M.Phil. from CPS, JNU in 2017; her dissertation was entitled “Remembering Gujarat 2002: Contending Memories and the Politics of Violence”. Part of this research was on the Gulbarg Society anti-Muslim massacre and has been published as a book chapter, “The Gulbarg Memorial and the Problem of Memory” in Partition and the Practice of Memory (Mahn and Murphy, 2018) and in India Seminar as an article, “Jameela’s journey: Faith and Resistance in Ahmedabad”. She was a Research Fellow (May-June 2017) at the University of Würzburg, Germany, under the UGC-DAAD fellowship of the Indo-German Partnership in Higher Education. Her articles on various issues of social justice, especially with regard to Muslims in India, have been published in various print and online media, such as “The Baroda Pamphlet”, “Firstpost”, “The Companion”, “Indian Writers Forum”. In October 2019 she was invited to deliver a lecture at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, on “Discourses of Anti-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India”.