I find there’s no sight more pathetic than one of those Marjoe-like preachers on those high-numbered religious channels on your satellite system, worked up into a pro-wrestling-level fake harangue about how a hurricane has punished the wicked in some state or another.
All right, then. As an evangelical Christian, I think I deserve an answer as to why plenty of believers in the Bible Belt are subject to tornadoes. If that’s your shallow, horrible theology, at least explain that one to me.
Apparently, this kind of grim spiritual fatuousness isn’t endemic to Christianity.
Iran-based Iraqi Shiite religious scholar Hadi al-Modarresi declared that coronavirus was Allah’s punishment upon the Chinese for their mistreatment of Muslims.
Unfortunately, that punishment has also been visited upon him now that the virus has arrived in Iran — which has, as of Thursday, the third-most infections and deaths.
“It is obvious that the spread of this virus is an act of Allah,” al-Modarresi said, according to the translation.
“How do we know this? The spread of the coronavirus began in China, an ancient and vast country, the population of which makes up one-seventh of humanity. More than a billion people live in that country. The authorities in that country are tyrannical and they laid siege to more than a million Muslims and placed them under house arrest,” he said.
“The journalists in that country began to mock the niqab of Muslim women and they forced Muslim men to eat pork and drink wine. Allah sent a disease upon them and this disease laid siege to 40 million [Chinese people],” al-Modarresi continued. “The same niqab that they mocked has been forced upon them, both men and women, by Allah, by means of the state authorities and officials.”
There’s no doubt the Chinese government has mistreated the Uighur Muslims, whom it has packed into “re-education” camps because of their religion, but even with that these charges seem outlandish, and the connection between this and COVID-19 is tenuous — if, of course, your definition of “tenuous” is “nonexistent.”
But lo! Al-Modarresi has evidence, given how the virus was transmitted to humans.
“Islam forbade people from eating insects, but [the Chinese] mocked this matter,” he said.
“And there you have it, this disease spread from the world of animals — be it bats, ants, or snakes, the result is the same — to the human world and it has scared humanity in its entirety.”
That video was uploaded on Feb. 25.
In early March, reports said the scholar himself had contracted the coronavirus.
A March 7 article from Iraq’s Buratha News Agency said al-Modarresi’s school announced his infection in a short statement, adding that he was resting in the hospital.
That same day, his official Twitter account said the same thing, appending a notice that he was doing better and recovering at the end of a prayer.
On March 10, meanwhile, he tweeted a picture of himself wearing what’s quickly become the symbol of coronavirus, a surgical mask:
Wait, I thought this was all punishment for lifestyle. Did he take to eating insects and bats? Was the BLT just too good to resist?
At a wider level, this is the problem with taking a message out of coronavirus that doesn’t exist.
It’s not an argument for “Medicare for all,” it’s not a sign of the failure of late-capitalist patriarchy and it certainly isn’t a sign Allah is taking his wrath out on the Chinese. That’s particularly true when you considered Allah apparently decided to take it out on his own next — and not just any Muslims, but specifically those in mostly Shiite Iran.
In any sane world, a man like al-Modarresi would be standing on an upturned crate on a street corner hollering his nonsense about how disasters are punishment for people he doesn’t like.
At least in the United States, such hucksters are consigned to the corners of the DirecTV channel lineup where few viewers tend to tread. Al-Modarresi has almost a million followers on Twitter.
At least, one hopes, they won’t view him as an expert on divine virology anymore.