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Conspiracies and Corona: Conversations in a Desi Family’s WhatsApp Group

If you live in a desi family, chances are, you’ve been forced into one of those WhatsApp groups where your relatives will make all sorts of odd conversation, including the start of some family feuds, skirmishes, and roasting sessions. However, if there’s one thing we might know about these groups, is that they can be both funny and really exasperating given that our elders have no idea how to listen to us even if – especially if – we’re making sense.  

Every time an event occurs, on a scale large enough to reach our uncles and aunties, the WhatsApp groups are filled with a lively debate on the “facts” which are mostly just opinions based on false information that has been spread around by forwarding messages to one another without double-checking them, and almost everyone must share their knowledge on the current topic of debate.  

People have chosen different methods of displaying their concerns about the recent pandemic which has taken the world by storm which is why while some people are choosing to hoard groceries and hygiene products, others seem nonchalant and continue to attend social gatherings, some people take to WhatsApp groups and share memes such as: 

Yes! Among the very misleading diagnosis and “cures” for Coronavirus, which include ingesting a variety of spices and herbs such as the infamous Clove, or laung, which is known to have healing powers that extend to everything but death (although they haven’t shared this with their Chinese neighbors, so much for Pak China Dosti, huh) many of our elders believe that if we engage in religious rituals, we are likely to prevent a virus from affecting us. 

 I mean, the doctors told you to self-isolate, wash your hands and prevent touching your face, but it’s not like this advice is something we’re likely to take, right? We understand that in tough times like these when we’re advised to maintain our distances, faith can be what binds us together, even over social media networks, but misleading people by assuring them that a recitation of one Surrah or another will cure them, especially without understanding the meaning of the verses is just deception. 

Among the many conspiracies that are floating around – including one of U.S involvements that may actually be true – our relatives’ first suspicion, which they proclaim is not just a suspicion but a fact is that the spread of the novel Corona Virus is meant to deliver a severe blow to the Muslim Ummah, to weaken us and make us susceptible to be attacked further.  

By whom, or why, isn’t something we’re concerned about; you can make up a lot of answers, like the well-known Yahoodi Saazish, because it’s always the damn Jews. Even if our handsome Prime Minister has failed to take any worthwhile action against the, blame it on the Jews because it’s more convenient than cleaning our own mess.  

Among the same lines are rumors of this being a Shia plot, and Ahmadi plot, an Indian/Hindu plot, a China trying to overpower the world but it backfiring on them plot and whatnot.  

These things might seem hilarious, but many people believe them ensuring in the reinforcement of problematic beliefs such as fascism and racism which is why it is best to tread lightly and try to debunk many of these myths even if it seems impossible to convince your Chacha/Chahci/Phuppi/Mamu/Mami/Khala that the shutting down of the Holy Kaaba was not a way to undermine Islamic practices, but a precaution.

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