April Hate Report: How COVID-19 is Weaponized to Justify Xenophobia

Courtesy of Shireen Hyrapiet

Over the last month, we’ve seen hate and vitriol run increasingly rampant through our communities, at times outsizing the powerful acts of solidarity, unity, and compassion we have also observed during this time of global health crisis.

In the U.S., there have been more than 3000 reported incidents of hate violence targeting Asian Americans in the last month. A recent poll found that 60% of Asian Americans say they have seen or been affected by a xenophobic reaction to COVID-19. This xenophobia is being fueled by racist rhetoric and policy from public officials, like Senator Cotton’s recent statement on FOX News that Chinese students should be restricted from receiving visas. We’ve also seen an increase in coronavirus-driven hate violence fueled by Islamophobia. In India, since March 28, there’s been a surge in the use of the Islamophobic hashtag #CoronaJihad.. This follows the pogrom in Delhi in February targeting Muslims which led to the deaths of at least 53 people. Equality Labs has found that #CoronaJihad appeared “nearly 300,000 times” and was likely “seen by 165 million people on Twitter.” These tweets have been cited in attacks like this one against a paralyzed Muslim man in Valsad, Gujarat.

Meanwhile, Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim minority communities in Afghanistan have faced repeated attacks against their community and religious spaces, with the most recent being two coordinated attacks on Sikh gatherings in Kabul. While these attacks were driven by non-state actors, this amount of hate violence in the region cannot be separated from U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, which has played a role in intensifyingstate violence in the region for years. As a U.S. based organization, we believe it’s imperative that we hold our government accountable for its violence impacting South Asians outside U.S. borders. The Sikh Coalition has responded by demanding “the U.S. government to step up by resettling these families and taking other preventative actions to protect Afghan religious minorities”, which has raised an urgent question to our South Asian American communities: How can we actively confront, combat, and destroy xenophobia across geographic borders?

Since April 1, 2020, SAALT has tracked 6 incidents of hate violence targeting Muslims and those racialized as Muslim:

Xenophobic political rhetoric continues to be used by public officials and institutionalized in policy. On April 23, the Trump Administration put forth yet another immigration ban. This ban, like the Muslim Ban and other policies targeting immigrants, are state sanctioned forms of racism and xenophobia. In the form of an Executive Order, it prevents any foreign national who is currently outside the U.S. and doesn’t have an immigrant visa from seeking an immigrant visa to the U.S. It claims COVID-19 as a reason for this ban, while simultaneously continuing to exploit temporary workers for their critical labor during this crisis.

SAALT has recorded 3 additional incidents of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric since March 17, 2020.

Since April 1, 2020, SAALT has tracked 15 reported incidents of hate violence and rhetoric targeting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander individuals and communities. However, we know the number of incidents is much higher. We have had over 3000 sensitive first-hand accounts of hate violence shared with us and our AAPI allies; these details will not be reported in SAALT’s Monthly Hate Reports.

Inclusive of the incidents in this monthly summary, SAALT and our partners have tracked 314 incidents of xenophobic or Islamophobic rhetoric, and 633 incidents of hate violence victimizing Muslims and Asian Americans, and those perceived as Muslim or Asian American, since 2015.

A national social justice org working on policy analysis/advocacy on issues affecting the South Asian community: immigration, post 9/11 backlash. www.saalt.org