Several mosques in Blackburn have accused Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council of unfair treatment after it criticised local mosques over their Covid-19 compliance.
In a letter to the council signed by 14 mosques, the signatories say they are extremely disappointed at the failure of the council to engage constructively with mosques and for unfairly targeting them.
The letter was sent after one local mosque, Jaame Masjid, received a letter from the council which was critical of its face covering and social distancing compliance, among other things.
The mosque letter said the council had failed to acknowledge “the hard work of mosques and other faith and voluntary organisations in keeping our communities safe including to facilitate a safe space for worshippers, promote vaccine take up, provide vaccination facilities to the NHS, promote face-coverings, support the work of helping the most vulnerable in our local area, all with limited resources.”
The letter added: “Threatening enforcement action and closure is not conducive to constructive engagement and we sincerely hope the council avoids such language in the future.”
The letter concluded that the council should engage constructively and directly with grassroots organisations and understand and appreciate the practical challenges before issuing advices and threats.
The letter was signed by the following organisations: Jaame Masjid, Masjid Raza, Makki Masjid, Masjid Noorul Islam, Jamia Ghosia Mosque, Masjid e Hidayah, Masjid Sajedee, Masjid e Anisul Islam, Lammack Prayer Room, Khanqah Masjid, Al-Asr Masjid, Beardwood Musallah, Al Madad Masjid and Masjid Bilaal.
In response, Martin Eden, of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, said the council had received a number of complaints from the Muslim community regarding Covid-19 standards in mosques and had therefore conducted a review across all faith settings in the borough.
He said: “These visits were not enforcement based and were done with the intention to support the faiths settings. Most churches and other faith settings were found to be closed, and the ones which were open were found to be Covid secure. Audits at mosques showed a different picture and not all mosques were found to be compliant with all the Covid standards.
“The Council has always targeted its resources at areas of highest risk, this includes the hospitality sector e.g. cafes, takeaways, pubs and clubs and other areas e.g. gyms, or close contact services. The audit work which is currently being undertaken at mosques is no different.
“The Council recognises that Places of Worship provide a Covid secure environment throughout Ramadan, as the attendance at mosques during this period is vastly increased. It is our duty to protect our citizens and avoid further increases in coronavirus cases in all settings…
“You are incorrect when you say that the Jamia Ghosia mosque was targeted by the council… We have been working hard to support the Muslim community and have continuously looked at what more we can do…
“BAME group have been disproportionately affected from Covid. We have a policy of avoiding blame and stigmatisation and our strategy is to work, support, share advice and promote best practice so that we can manage the risks of Covid and its impact on our communities.”