New research has painted a devastating picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Muslim community.
The report by the Centre for Muslim Policy Research, by Dr Hina J Shahid, describes a community that has been disproportionately hit hard by coronavirus while at the same time suffering increased Islamophobia because of it.
Government statistics have revealed that individuals from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are 2-3 times more likely to die from COVID-19, with the risk for Black Africans being almost 4 times as high.
The report found that:
- Muslim communities have struggled to cope with excess deaths and burials. Under- preparation caused by the delay in declaring a national emergency and lack of clear communication by authorities on funeral and burial rites caused heightened anxiety amongst the community at the beginning of the pandemic, undermining trust.
- Higher deaths have increased the risk of bereavement and other mental health disorders, and of developing long term post-traumatic stress disorder accentuated by restrictions on hospital visitation especially for end-of-life patients, funerals and isolation of grieving households disrupting cultural and religious norms.
- Muslim community organisations responded early suspending congregational activities and adapting burial and funeral practices ahead of government advice, organising networks of support.
- A large number of Muslim organisations and institutions depend on donations which have declined due to suspension of routine services and economic impact on communities, pushing many organisations into financial hardship.
- The crisis has exacerbated economic vulnerability as Muslims are over-represented in shut-down industries and in the informal sector with inadequate health and safety protection at work. This has pushed many Muslim families into financial hardship and increased stress, anxiety and depression.
- The legacy of colonialism and slavery, alienation by politicians and the media and marginalisation have contributed to mistrust of authorities and public health advice and the generation of conspiracy theories, alternative facts and fake news, undermining public health efforts.
- Increased Islamophobia linking Muslims to the spread of COVID-19, anti-Muslim memes and fake news theories have threatened social cohesion, safety, security and wellbeing, on a background of a year-on-year increase in hate crimes experienced by Muslims.
- There is also concern about the impact on healthcare workers, both physical and mental. Despite making up 10- 15% of the workforce, over 50% of doctors who have died have been Muslim.
The report recommended data be collected and published by ethnicity and faith to further understand the impact of risk and health outcomes including death, hospital admissions, primary care access and community transmission.
Further data is also needed on the wider social, economic, demographic, ecological and clinical risk factors.