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Hafiz Mohammed Naseerudin says that after a police officer assaulted him for being a Muslim and accused him of spreading the coronavirus, he was left lying on the road for almost an hour.

Naseerudin, 44, had gone to pick up vegetables from his friend’s house in Humnabad, southern India’s Karnataka state, when he said that an officer had stopped him on his scooter.

Other vehicles were on the road, says Naseerudin – he believes he was arrested because of his religion.

“I am an imam, so I look and dress very Muslim. I also have a long beard,” he says. “The cop started hitting me and saying it is because of me and my community that this disease is spreading.”

Nagesh D L, police superintendent of the Bidar district of Humnabad, said that the officer had been suspended while an investigation was under way into the incident. Naseerudin says he called hospital police to make a statement, but Nagesh says they have received no complaints.

Naseerudin is not alone: As fears over the coronavirus mountain in India, some Muslims, who represent around 200 million of the country’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, have been the target of Islamophobic attacks and accused of having spread the virus.

In the capital New Delhi, volunteers distributing ration kits to Muslim families say they are being harassed by the police and are afraid to go out. In Punjab, Muslim milk producers say they have been threatened by villagers, their homes have been searched by police, and people are afraid to buy their products.

Although these incidents were mostly isolated, viral fears only amplify existing prejudices, playing on the growing Hindu nationalism which, in recent years, has seen Indian Muslim societies increasingly marginalized.

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