"You are going to start feeling a little bit of angst"
Community leaders fear that British Asians will be subjected to backlash despite their efforts being made to control the virus.
This comes after Bradford and other towns in the north of England tightened lockdown restrictions following an increase in Covid-19 cases.
Recent outbreaks have been peaking among Asians, often living in the most deprived areas of terraced streets.
In one incident, an Asian man was called a “disease spreading P***” while out shopping.
South Asians often have multi-generational families living together. Many are also in public-facing jobs.
Shadim Hussain, of the Bradford Foundation Trust and CEO of My Foster Family, said:
“I think some communities are more challenged by the nature of how they congregate, carry out prayers, family gatherings.
“It can be seen from the towns and cities that have been highlighted publicly, those still showing high numbers of cases, Leicester, Bradford, Blackburn.
“There’s obviously a concern around with Eid coming up and at a time when large gatherings do take place but from the work I have done here locally in Bradford with the council for mosques and other organisations, I have been pleased by the efforts to make sure places of worship are well prepared.
“The communities are in a much better position. The message has got through.
“I think you are always going to get an element of your young people who might still want to go out.
“By and large I think there’s a clear recognition that it’s Eid at home this year.”
Blackburn councillor Saima Afzal said that Covid-19 spreads irrespective of race in any high-contact location.
Ms Afzal said: “People are hearing, ‘Muslim, coronavirus, Niqab, death.’ You are going to start feeling a little bit of angst by it.
“People need to just be a bit more empathetic, step back from making this a race issue or a religious issue.
“No-one is suggesting for the data not to be put out there. Now we are finding a knock-on effect from that, which is not good for anyone.
“We have got to be honest about the data, but we have to also manage the impact.
“I’m worried just as much about the negative impact on cohesion.”
Leicester remains in lockdown and has been joined several northern towns and cities, suffering increased outbreak numbers and also home to high South Asian populations.
Ms Afzal added: “There is a strong feeling that some sections of media are normalising the racialisation of this debate, my own view is also that some sections of media are guilty of this – be it wittingly or unwittingly.
“I have heard lots of judgmental narrative about how multi-generational household are a ‘problem’, that we ‘Asians have large families’ and so our lifestyle is causing the disease to spread.
“Every member of this community doesn’t want the cases to rise. It is just really unfortunate Eid is in the middle of it. It could have been Christmas.
“There are always going to be those that don’t understand or don’t care, but that is never a justification to blame and label all sections of the community.
“It is not about us doing something wrong, it is about the circumstances; poverty, multi-generational housing, asymptomatic transmission.
“I’m asking for sympathy and empathy and not being judgmental, otherwise we are going to have a real problem on our hands.”
Labour MP Naz Shah said: “As a whole, the UK has made huge sacrifices to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Communities have also come together to support those who are most vulnerable.
“Indeed, in Bradford we saw first hand the innovative and charitable ways that residents of our city responded to the virus. It is important that we continue to follow the guidelines.
“What we must not do, however, is play into the hands of those who want to blame, target and demonise minority communities in response to the virus.
“Mosques in Bradford and across the country closed prior to the announcement of lockdown and now that worship is permitted again, they are running under some of most rigorous social distancing measures.
“They are playing their part in trying to keep our communities safe. To ignore or dismiss their efforts is unfair and wrong. All communities are playing their role and we must respect that.”