On the 13th April 2020, Metro.co.uk published an article headlined 'Fears of spike in coronavirus during Ramadan'. The headline implied that Ramadan celebrations would cause an increase in Covid-19 transmissions and cases, despite the majority of the article listing numerous examples of Muslim communities adapting Ramadan celebrations to suit social distancing.
Get The Trolls Out filed the following complaint to Metro.co.uk:
We at the Get the Trolls Out are writing to complain about the article “Fears of spike in coronavirus during Ramadan", authored by Sam Corbishley and published on Metro.co.uk on 13 April 2020.
Get the Trolls Out is a consortium of European charity organisations working on a campaign to combat discrimination and intolerance based on religious grounds in European media. Our partner in the UK is Media Diversity Institute We respect the right to freedom of expression and think hateful and inflammatory reporting should only be called out when it specifically crosses a line into discriminating against diverse groups.
We believe that the headline on this article falls short of professional journalistic standards in sensationalising the actual content of the article. The headline states that there are “fears” of coronavirus cases rising during Ramadan. The source used to support these claims, Dr Adnan Sharif, is quoted as saying that “People traditionally gather to open and close prayers and break fast at sundown with friends and neighbours, which could cause a big spike in infections.”
However, these are not usual times, as Corbishley himself identifies only a few sentences later: “Lockdown has resulted in the closure of mosques and a ban on large gatherings, preventing communal prayers and people coming together for shared meals of Suhoor and Iftar at either end of the daily fast. The changes have led to worshippers having to come up with new and innovative ways of celebrating." The article then goes on to list initiatives, like the Ramadan Tent Project, that are adapting to the current crisis by using innovative technology to bring people together during Ramadan, albeit virtually.
The content of the article therefore does not seem to connect accurately to the headline. Where are these supposed “fears” coming from, when the Muslim community in the UK has adapted to current social distancing rules? Coronavirus has affected several religious events, including Easter and Passover, which are typically celebrated with large groups of people. Followers of these religions have adapted to adhere to social distancing rules, too, and religious leaders have strongly encouraged social distancing measures at this time. These topics are important to cover; however, this should be done in a fair and ethical way to all groups.
We feel that this headline paints a skewed picture of how UK Muslims intend to celebrate Ramadan this year, and risks stoking fear among your readers in advance of this religious event, unnecessarily and without any supporting evidence. We would like to hear your thoughts about our concerns and we strongly encourage you to publish a headline that connects to article and that reflects reality instead or speculating about possible outcomes for which no evidence is provided.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Get the Trolls Out