Clips available on Twitter show the cleric wishing Hindus ill, but the whole video has since been taken down.
Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui, an influential cleric from Furfura Sharif, a holy place for Bengali Muslims in the Hooghly district of West Bengal recently launched a new political outfit – the Indian Secular Front. The ISF has joined the Left Front and Congress alliance for the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal.
Siddiqui's political candidature has triggered a discussion on social media about his communal leanings. An old video of Siddiqui is being circulated along with the claim that Siddiqui had wished 50 crore Indians should die of the coronavirus as proof of him harboring communal sentiments.
On March 1, 2021, OpIndia, a far-right media outlet published a report that highlighted that Siddiqui had spoken at a gathering on February 26, 2020, where he had said that he prayed to Allah that 50 crore Indians should die of the virus.
The original video of Siddiqui's speech is unavailable on YouTube. However, a snippet of the video that is still available on Twitter shows Siddiqui saying, "Recently I have got the news that mosques are being set on fire. I think something is going to happen within a month. May Allah accept our prayers. May Allah send such a terrible virus to India that ten to twenty to fifty crore people die in India." He also said that it wouldn't matter if he died of the virus.
The video went viral on social media. Siddiqui was criticized for his remarks. Siddiqui also reportedly issued an apology through another video message in which he stated that he had been quoted out of context, that the video had been edited to defame him, and that he did not want to hurt anyone. This video has also been taken down by YouTube.
That the original videos are unavailable is indicative of the fact that the content must have been deemed harmful and was hence taken down. However, it also means that it is impossible to ascertain if he was actually quoted out of context, so we have marked this claim partly true.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.