Between Tyranny and Anarchy: Islam, Covid-19, and Public Policy

Author: Rebekah Go

Mahan Mirza 2

How can engagement with religious norms help - rather than hinder - engagement with public health directives meant to promote the common good and health across all communities? This is the question at the heart of Dr. Mahan Mirza’s recent article in the journal Religions. As the Covid-19 pandemic illustrated, individual religious beliefs and cultural norms can be at odds with best practices in public health. Along with assertions of religious freedom and a rise in suspicion of corporate scientific institutions, a firestorm of vaccine resistance resulted and may have threatened or delayed positive public health outcomes.


In his article Between tyranny and anarchy: Islam, Covid-19, and public policy, Dr. Mirza tackles the complexity of public health within the context of religion. He argues that religious literacy by public health leaders can help - rather than hinder - their public health outreach. Further he explains that public education will be best received within the cultural norms and expectations of societies wherein religious traditions play a significant role in societal conventions.

Whereas beliefs may always diverge, argues Mirza, “New and more nimble political models are needed which allow societies to pivot between the poles of freedom and cooperation, between primacy of individuals and compromise for the sake of the collective, in order to respond to the challenges of particular moments.” The publication, part of a special issue on religion and Covid-19, is an important contribution to the growing body of post-pandemic research.