Muslim community leaders say they are terrified that unconfirmed news reports claiming one of Melbourne’s coronavirus clusters originated at a family Eid celebration could create a new wave of anti-Islamic sentiment.
The only source cited in the article was a receptionist at the Pakenham Medical Clinic, who confirmed a female patient who attended the clinic on 10 June, and later tested positive for Covid-19, was believed to have contracted it at the family gathering that took place in violation of the Australian government's ban on large gatherings at the time.
Guardian Australia spoke to three receptionists at the clinic. One said they were told about the Eid connection by the health department, one that it was “what [she] heard around the office” and the other that she believed the department had not confirmed the source and that the patient had told the doctor the information.
The department contacted the clinic to inform the doctor who treated the woman that they were considered a close contact, but a spokeswoman for the premier said contact tracers would never have revealed information during one of these calls about where a patient contracted the virus.
The patient attended the clinic 17 days after Eid. The doctor has since been released from quarantine and tested negative.
“I’m really concerned, I’m thinking ‘here we go again’, scapegoating, marginalizing, unfairly stigmatizing the Muslim community,” said Adel Salman, the vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria.
“It just plays into the same narrative that Muslims are untrustworthy, that they aren’t like us, that they flout our rules, that they don’t have Australia’s interests at heart … Either they are a threat because they want to kill us and attack us or they are a threat because they are propagating the virus. It’s the same narrative.
“The Muslim community, we have been through this so often for many many years.”