On January 31, 2020 in the midst of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China the city’s Party Secretary, Ma Guoqiang admitted in a televised interview to feeling “guilty and remorseful,” about the city government’s failures to contain the virus. In response, netizens on Weibo directed visceral abuse at Ma, an ethnic Hui Muslim, about his faith and loyalty to the party. The attacks came just months after the publication of leaked documents from national party officials calling Islam a “virus” and vowing to stop its “contagion.” Using discourse analysis of posts regarding Ma from January and February 2020, this paper examines how online discussion of Ma exemplifies Islamophobic attitudes of netizens and illuminate the exclusory ethnic politics that unfold in the process of national boundary setting in China. These findings will also illuminate how Muslims become scapegoats for crisis in non-Muslim countries, particularly those under authoritarian governance.
- Hui Muslims
- Everyday nationalism