Keeping mosques, temples and gurdwaras open ‘essential’ for wellbeing of the people

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LEEDS: An imam has joined other faith leaders in calling on the Government to reconsider its decision to restrict places of worship during the upcoming second lockdown in England.

Imam Qari Asim, of Makkah Mosque in Leeds, said finding a way of keeping mosques open was of “paramount importance” and should be considered “essential”, along with other services. He was speaking as the archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the Bishop of London, wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for public worship to continue.

Imam Qari Asim

The letter was also signed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Imam Asim, who is a Government adviser on Islamophobia said; “The complete cessation of communal prayer and worship is a matter of concern for Muslim communities.”

He said there was no evidence of Covid outbreaks in mosques and said they “serve not only the spiritual and religious needs of the Muslim community but also they help maintain the mental wellbeing of the community as well”.

Imam Qari Muhammad Asim, chair of MINAB, added: “Mosques have contributed tremendously throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to support those who are vulnerable and in need, to mobalise vulnteers in their neighbourhoods and to offer facilities to alleviate pressure on the NHS, to provide pastrol care, to name but a few. “Much of this work is sustained by communal prayer. “We believe the continued running of mosques with all the necessary precautions is vital for the wellbeing of all communities.”

Bhai Amrik Singh

The imam said mosques would be willing to consider limits on numbers and more stringent definitions of social distancing. He said: “The fundamental difference with a mosque is that we pray as a congregation. That doesn’t mean that we need to have hundreds of people.

Meanwhile, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) Bhai Amrik Singh said two of the most important events in the Sikh calendar fall in the lockdown period and added: “It appears the Government ignored the needs of the Sikh community.”

Mr Singh said the concept of individual prayer is a “nonsense” in Sikh worship.

He said: “We are deeply concerned about social isolation, the impact on mental health and personal wellbeing as Government do not regard worship as a fundamental right and see it as non-essential compared to other gatherings they are allowing to continue.”

A group of 71 church leaders from different Christian traditions said on Tuesday they had agreed to start a legal challenge to the Government’s decision to close churches.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it was writing to the Government to outline its concerns and “call for an urgent evidence-based reassessment of the status of places of worship, taking into account the societal harms closing them poses”. The MCB said in a statement: “There is no apparent evidence that places of worship have been a primary driver for the virus’ propagation.