Holier-than-thou

What should prevail during this pandemonium and sense of distrust is sense and sensibility. More so our humanity and dignity

pic by BERNAMA

WATCHING a live football match on TV played in an empty stadium is as dull as ditchwater. Goal celebrations were limited to running to the touchline, facing an empty stand in a structure that can hold 35,000 people.

Instead of a cheering crowd, there is only a bench of 20 people rooting for the players. Millions who watched behind the stupid box or mobile devices feel they are robbed of the last few joys in life. Winning for the first time means nothing.

Liverpool’s wait of 30 years for an English football title would likely end in triumph, but the coveted champions trophy will be presented in an office and not on the pitch with fanfare. And they do not have to complete a season of 38 matches.

Formula One races may only start in the summer. Euro 2020 and the Olympics may not happen.

The world is not like a game of two halves. The second 45 minutes remains as murky as our rivers after a thunderstorm.

The coronavirus pandemic has robbed the world of normalcy. Global markets are down. Malaysia’s main index fell by almost 100 points, the worst since 2008 during the global financial crisis.

It is estimated about RM77 billion in wealth disappeared in a single bloody day. Tycoons are counting their losses, easily spiking to hundreds of millions. Accidentally, it happened on a Friday the 13th. Talk about an old superstition that was rooted in the unfair massacres of the Knights Templars at the stake centuries ago.

Life will not be the same in the next few months. Coronavirus has changed the way we live, work, socialise and behave.

People do not shake hands. We live in a fear bubble. A visit to a friend’s wedding or to the mosque is plagued with anxieties. Gyms, malls, entertainment outlets are almost deserted. Some cities under lockdown smell of deaths after a nuclear detonation.

Airports are empty. Airline workers are forced to take no-pay leave. Some of the world’s carriers may not fly again. In the US, milk, bottled water and other essentials are being cleared off the shelves as panic buying grips the world’s biggest economy.

Religion and religious practices are also impacted. Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Madinah — Masjidil Haram and Nabawi Mosque — were closed recently to be sanitised. Foreigners are banned from performing the umrah by the Saudi authorities. Reuters reported even Pope Francis did his Sunday blessing over the Internet from the inside of the Vatican and he felt “caged”.

In Italy, more than 1,200 people have died due to the coronavirus and infections topped 17,600 (at press time), the biggest death toll and infections outside China.

It is the first time since the end of the second world war that the world is gripped with such fear, uncertainties and disbelief.

More than 159,000 people have been infected and more than 6,000 deaths by the flu virus (at press time), which could have originated from a camel, a bat, a rat or a pangolin.

The virus has spread from the epicentre in Wuhan, China, last December to 126 countries currently. The death toll is expected to rise and more people will be sickened.

At the start of this outbreak, China was largely blamed. AntiChina feeling was obvious like a leper’s visit to a village. Resentment was widespread.

Some people in the Muslim world, including in Malaysia, said it was God’s punishment to Beijing over the country’s prosecution of Muslim minority Uyghur.

China is accused of sending millions of Uyghur to concentration camps, using Muslim slaves at manufacturing centres in these camps and inflicting other atrocities against the community.

From a local outbreak, the coronavirus turned into an emergency before rising to a pandemic, as casualties across the world rose faster than in China.

People then started to train the end of the gun barrel on other excuses. In South Korea, people are blaming the Shincheonji Church. Out of the 7,000 reported cases, about 60% of all infections originated in Daegu, where this religious cult is based.

The secretive religious sect, labelled as a cult, was blamed for the spread of the virus. Members of the cult were persecuted and attacked and one had been killed.

In Malaysia, a religious “tabligh” gathering at a mosque in Petaling Jaya has been the focus. The Health Ministry said about 16,000 people attended the four-day “Ijtima Tabligh” and more than 40 Covid-19 cases are related to the attendees of the event.

Cases in Brunei and Sarawak were also linked to the gathering. Criticisms of the event organiser has grown louder, while Muslims claimed the religion has been unfairly targeted.

Worries rose a few notches as there were 190 confirmed new cases yesterday (for a total of 428 confirmed cases), of which a majority were linked to the event. The numbers are expected to rise. To some extent, the organiser is at fault for not putting public health interest above oneself.

But blaming a religion or a community is like a bear with a sore head. It falls short of one’s brain level.

Nobody knows why certain things happen and why others don’t. Why the sun rises in the East or the dark side of the moon is hidden from us. Why some people are infected and others are not.

What should prevail during this pandemonium and sense of distrust is sense and sensibility. That is the only protection against the coronavirus pandemic. More so our humanity and dignity.


Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve. (His prayer goes out to all the victims of Covid-19, especially to a friend who was recently on oxygen support. May you recover soon.)