The chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission has accused Muslim leaders of a “failure of leadership” over the coronavirus crisis, and has insisted that all mosques should be closed to prevent the spread of the disease.
Mosques all over the country, as well as the Muslim Council of Britain, have followed government advice and advised worshippers to stay at home if they can and to follow strict hygiene guidelines. But they have not called for closures.
Massoud Shadjareh told 5Pillars that this was not good enough and that mosques and Muslim organisations should be showing a lead on this issue.
He said: “I think our community needs to rise up to this occasion. One of the first responsibilities we have is to look after our community and minimise the risk of people being infected. We must look after the most vulnerable, the elderly and those who have pre-existing conditions.
“And one of the most basic principles that we all know is don’t do anything which could spread disease and spread the virus when it’s not necessary, and that principle is part and parcel of our Shari’ah.
“So things like prayers in jama’a which could help spread the virus need to be cancelled. And people need to stay at home, it’s not just about praying at the mosque it’s about getting to the mosque and coming back from the mosque. People are putting themselves at unnecessary risk; especially if they’re elderly and if you go to mosques for the five times prayers the proportion of people who are elderly is very high.”
Shadjareh suggested that in the absence of mosque closures more sanitising gels should be made available and worshippers should bring in their own prayer mats to avoid spreading the virus by infecting carpets.
Regarding government advice not to shut down mass gatherings, Shadjareh said that the British and U.S. governments are totally out of tune with advice from the rest of the world and even the World Health Organisation.
“Even football clubs are cancelling matches. It’s really shameful that football clubs and rugby clubs seem to be more concerned about their communities than we are.” he said. “They’re not waiting for the government to say something. They are taking the initiative which is what Muslims should do. We shouldn’t be waiting for the government to tell us what to do.
“This is also an opportunity for us to make a contribution to wider society. We could be teaching people about cleanliness. In Islam it is very important that we wash our hands before we do something and wash our hands after we do something. Our youth could also be going out and helping the vulnerable. We must have higher standards than the government.”
Last week the Muslim Council of Britain passed on NHS advice to mosques and Islamic centres which told worshippers not to attend mosques if they had recently been to certain red zone countries, or have flu-like symptoms, or had been in contact with a confirmed COVID 19 case. But the advice fell short of calling for mosque closures.
And today the council of scholars, Wifaqul Ulama, urged over 60s to pray salah at home instead of attending the masjid for congregational prayers
It said: “The latest medical guidance we have received is that 1 in every 20 people that contract the Coronavirus will have aggressive symptoms and potentially die. However, the mortality rate of over 60s who contract the coronavirus (Covid-19) is much higher at 25%.
“This decision has not been taken lightly. Families of the elderly are strongly advised to consider the implications of individuals that will pass away from this virus. For example, as the virus can remain active in the vicitm’s body for days after their death, the deceased may not be permitted to be given ghusl, their bodies will be sealed in bodybags and buried in them immediately. The deceased person’s family members may not be able to attend the janazah due to being in self-isolation.”
Wifaqul Ulama also issued the following guidelines: