20 Apr Conspiracy theories and COVID-19: Do we have a problem?
Muslims are not immune to the world-wide phenomenon of misinformation and science denialism. It’s been a growing problem, much like coronavirus spreading, through the internet with extra momentum thanks to social media.
You only have to jump on Facebook or Instagram to see all kinds of crazy out there. This is especially dangerous at the moment given the current coronavirus outbreak and the recent lockdown measures in Melbourne.
Unfortunately, this false information has lead people to question the safety of vaccines and the importance of public health measures such as wearing masks and social distancing rules. Not surprisingly we have within the Muslim community those who use their social media platforms to do this.
We have alternative health practitioners questioning the safety of vaccines and promoting anti vaccine propaganda. I have seen vaccine refusal within the community first hand and from women and men who are heavily influenced by this mentality. I’m terrified we may one day witness an outbreak of measles, whooping cough or chicken pox and you can be guaranteed the media will have a field day with this.
We only need to look at the media focus and biased reporting on the spread of coronavirus within the Northern Suburbs and the Flemington flats in Melbourne, Victoria. It’s no secret these are Muslim majority areas. Misinformation puts us all in danger.
There have been wild theories floating about that COVID-19 testing is a ploy to implant microchip’s, that 5G spreads the virus, that “they are trying to collect our DNA” and that there is some secret agenda at play. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how dangerous this is.
This can encourage people not to get tested, ignore the social distancing recommendations and to not seek help or testing when they should, which will in turn cause further spread of the virus. At its absolute worse we may see sections of the community refusing the coronavirus vaccine, when available, again putting everyone at risk.
I think it’s time our leaders become aware of these issues and concerns and make plans as to how we tackle them together. There are more than enough health professionals within the community who would be able to assist. Crisp and clear messaging is vital and the attitude to accept or allow dangerous ideas like this to continue to flourish is wrong.
Of course, this is a very sensitive topic for many and needs to be approached with respect but there is no compromise on some issues. We do not argue that seat belts are needed or baby car seats should optional. Vaccines have been shown time and time again to be safe and effective, there is no room for argument or discussion on this.
We as a community need to be focussed and clear with our messaging. I’m hoping with persistence and education we can shift this way of thinking. We need to be clear not to support in anyway the spread of misinformation and that may mean refusing to allow these harmful voices to flourish. We need to do this. Our lives are at stake.