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Chicago Muslim Preacher Blames the COVID-19 Pandemic on Jews

Radical Omar Baloch pictured with Rabbi Gila Ruskin from Temple Adas Shalom in 2019.
Radical Omar Baloch pictured with Rabbi Gila Ruskin from Temple Adas Shalom in 2019.

One of Chicago’s most notorious antisemites has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in a despicable manner: by blaming Jews and encouraging Muslims to arm themselves against their neighbors. During a series of alarmist rants on his YouTube channel, Imam Omar Baloch simultaneously declared that the coronavirus may be a Zionist-American plot to throttle the growth of the Chinese economy, a punishment from Allah and the work of shadowy secret societies.

However, Baloch’s most concerning online lecture occurred on March 22, when he suggested that the coronavirus presents a “very good opportunity” for Muslims to “purchase firearms” ahead of confrontations with their Trump-supporting neighbors.

An anti-vaxxer and doomsday-prepper, Baloch was born in Chicago and preached there for much of his adult life, only recently relocating to Abingdon, Md., to work at the Al Falah mosque. He studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and also attended Al-Azhar University in Egypt and the Jamia Thul Ahlul Hadith in Pakistan. Despite his international education, Baloch proliferates outlandish and implausible theories based on medieval superstitions, reflecting a curious paranoia common among extremists of every persuasion.

To make the case that the coronavirus is a sadistic plot engineered by the West, Baloch sought to legitimize previous conspiracies as a matter of fact. During a March 13 YouTube video titled “Corona Virus Man Made or God Sent?” Baloch explained that there are two types of conspiracies. According to the imam’s stunted logic, the first kind is observably “clear,” such as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “It doesn’t fit the facts,” said Baloch, arguing that the deadly plot was carried out to show that “Muslims are terrorists.”

The Imam refused to “give a dissertation” to prove his 9/11 conspiracy, which was premised on a single observation: “You can’t have a plane hit a building, and then it just comes tumbling down as if there was a bomb attached to it,” he reasoned.

Baloch shared his hypothesis regarding the pandemic. “The economy was about to fall, and then they needed some way to deal with the falling economy,” he reasoned. “So, there was no better timing than to come up with this coronavirus and then blame it for everything that happens.”

The imam continued, reading a Foreign Policy headline: “‘Beijing Knows Who to Blame for the Virus: America.’ Okay, but we know who’s behind [it],” he said, referring to a Jewish conspiracy. “It’s not innocent America. In a sense, you know, we know who really is behind it.”

As an Islamic scholar, Baloch attempted to provide theological justification for his superstitions, offering “conspiracy theories from a Koranic perspective,” and asking, “Does not Allah punish people with plagues?”

Baloch pointed to the Divine nature of the coronavirus. “It’s like from Allah: ‘This will not affect kids.’ And it’s from Allah that it’s affecting so many people that are very famous. Like Trump’s daughter now has it. The Supreme Ayatollah—they have it,” said Baloch, ostensibly referring to Ivanka Trump and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, neither of whom is afflicted with COVID-19.