The Muslim Council of Britain has advised mosques not to rush to reopen for congregational prayers despite government indications that they could greenlight reopenings from July 4.
The advice follows a consultation with hundreds of mosques and dozens of regional and national Muslim associations in the past few weeks.
Following its consultation the MCB produced detailed guidance on the safe and gradual reopening of mosques for congregational worship.
It paints a picture of what congregational worship is likely to look like in our mosques over the next few months at least, with strict social distancing and other measures in place.
The guidance suggests that mosques should:
- Plan how and when they should reopen by appointing a COVID-19 safety officer and team.
- Plan the space which will reopen and whether it will be outdoor or indoors, as well as calculate the maximum safe capacity of the mosque with social distancing.
- Plan the equipment signage (e.g. one-way arrows, closed wudhu area / other rooms) in highly visible locations.
- Plan the staff and volunteers such as COVID safety officers and deputies.
- Prepare the community and educate on criteria for coming to the mosque such as the need to bring prayer mats, Qurans and do wudhu at home.
- Plan the pre-prayer by considering some form of basic screening at entrances for taking temperatures and dealing with high risk individuals.
- Plan the prayer by making sure there are empty rows between each row and to allow for two metre spacing in all directions.
- Plan the post-prayer by encouraging contactless donations and by prohibiting handshakes or socialising.
- Plan for problems such as if someone is COVID positive or if someone complains or disagrees with the plans.
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB, said: “Though we as Muslims are longing to go back to our mosques and worship with our communities, it is essential that we do not rush. Coronavirus is still prevalent and dangerous, and mosque leaders must carefully plan and decide when they feel they can put the required controls in place to reopen in the safest way possible. These guidelines are designed to help mosque leaders achieve this.
“With BAME communities including Muslims communities disproportionately impacted by coronavirus, we must prioritise the safety of our communities and focus on minimising the risk of infection transmission in our decision making. The preservation of life is paramount in Islam.
“Local coordination is also essential, and we encourage mosques leaders to implement a coordinated approach with other mosques in their town, city or borough, utilising local Councils of Mosques, regional Muslim forums and other platforms to share advice, best practice and resources.
“Regarding the UK Government’s announcement that in England, places of worship can reopen for ‘individual worship’, while this may be suitable for church buildings, it is evident that implementing this for most mosques is considerably challenging and impractical. We recommend that it is more useful for mosque leaders to invest their time and efforts into preparing for safely resuming congregational prayers from as early as 4 July, with timeframes in Scotland and Wales to be announced.”