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False claim: Social distancing measures are being used to impose sharia law

Posts shared on social media claim the response to the coronavirus pandemic indicates a hidden agenda to impose sharia law across the U.S. This claim is false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of the posts can be found here , here , and here .   

The posts cite the slaughter of pigs, the cancellation of sporting events, the closure of bars, and the closure of churches as alleged evidence that statewide shutdowns and social distancing measures are part of a conspiracy to impose sharia law.

Sharia, misspelled in the Facebook posts as “shiria,” is the body of Islamic religious law based primarily on the Islamic holy book, the Koran, as well as the words and actions of the Prophet Mohammad. It is a legal framework that regulates both public and private life. Sharia covers a broad range of issues including worship, commercial dealings, marriage, inheritance and penal laws. Sharia has been demonized by some in the West, primarily for its criminal legal aspects, which can include punishments like amputation of a hand for theft or the stoning of adulterers (here).  

The claim, however, selectively picks aspects of social distancing policies in order to compare them with certain aspects of sharia law. Social distancing efforts derive from scientific and public health guidance designed to stem the spread of COVID-19

(hereherehere).  

The posts claim “farmers are killing 700,000 pigs a week”. The number of pigs being slaughtered during the coronavirus pandemic does not relate to religion. As the new coronavirus disrupts the meat supply chain, farmers have run out of space to keep growing and feeding their pigs. Unlike cattle, which can be housed outside on pasture, U.S. hogs are fattened up for slaughter inside temperature-controlled buildings (here).  

The closures of slaughterhouses and slowdown in production have reduced pork slaughter capacity by about 35% to 40%, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So contrary to what the posts suggest, fewer pigs are being slaughtered than usual. As visible in this Reuters graphic here, 298,000 pigs were killed on May 5, 2020, compared to 470,000 killed on the same day the previous year.   

The pandemic has also forced dairy farmers to dump their milk (here), while poultry farmers have been forced to kill and discard their chickens (here).

The post claims COVID-19 has “cancelled all sports” and “closed all bars”. The cancellation of sporting events, as well as temporary closures of bars and churches across the country, is part of efforts to follow social distancing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends that people should avoid spreading or catching the new coronavirus by staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from others, not gathering in groups, and avoiding mass gatherings (here). Populous settings like sports arenas, bars, and places of worship would make following these guidelines difficult. 

As reported by Business Insider, liquor stores, considered essential businesses, have remained open in most of the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic (here). The Reuters Fact Check team previously debunked a viral April Fool’s prank claiming that California was banning alcohol sales amidst coronavirus lockdown (here).  The posts also falsely claim that all churches have been forced to close, implying this is a covert plan to only allow mosques to stay open. The Reuters Fact Check team recently disproved the claim that Minnesota’s government was allowing mosques to remain open amid the COVID-19 outbreak (here).   As reported by ABC, the exemption of religious gatherings from coronavirus restrictions varies state by state. However, in states where houses of worship are not considered essential businesses, restrictions on large gatherings apply to all religions (here). 

VERDICT

False. The measures selectively listed in this claim are part of the recommended response to the coronavirus pandemic with a medical and scientific rationale. They have no links to religion.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here  . 

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