On Monday 15th June, as places of worship gradually re-opened, MPs flagged up their concerns about a potential rise in Islamophobic attacks against the Muslim community.
These concerns follow after some far-right-media reports accused and alleged the Muslim community of breaking lockdown and gathering at Mosques during Ramadan.
Speaking against that propagandist movement, Afzal Khan, vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Muslims stated that he had received dozens of racist emails during Ramadan and Eid about Muslims increasing the transmission of coronavirus on social media. He said,
“It’s true that a large number of people do participate [at mosques]. But they understand the risk. They are complying with [the rules] and there is no evidence to show that they are not and yet the narrative from the far right is the opposite.”
Bearing these concerns in mind the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has produced an updated guideline for the safe and gradual re-opening of the mosques for congregational prayers in consultation with regional and national Muslim associations in the past few weeks. This guidance provides mosque leaders and Imams with a checklist of issues to consider before reopening and essential measures to put in place to minimise the risk of the spread of infection. It includes a template risk assessment, advice on maintaining social distancing within the mosque, measures to take if an attendee develops symptoms of coronavirus and communicating plans to the local community. Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB said,
“The UK Government has announced 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 time frames in Scotland and Wales to be announced.”
Other MPs like Yasmin Qureshi one of the first female Muslim MPs, Tan Singh Dhesi MP and Wes Streeting MP both vice-chairs of the APPG for British Muslims, also raised similar concerns around Islamophobic attacks.
Streeting is calling on police to consider increasing security at mosques in their operational plans as lockdown eases across the UK. Meanwhile, Tan Dhesi said,
“Communal elements are more common in certain faiths but there have been certain elements of the far right saying this is how the coronavirus is spreading. This is a dangerous narrative we need to call out.”