Closed mosques, cancelled pilgrimages, suspended gatherings… faced with the spread of the coronavirus, Muslims have had to isolate themselves from their communities and adapt to the changes brought on by the crisis. Despite this, heartwarming stories about Muslim health workers, community efforts and interfaith solidarity have also been shared online.
Britain’s Muslims are amongst the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic according to senior NHS officials. Many Muslims in the UK live in extended families under one roof making isolation of the elderly difficult, social intimacy like handshakes and hugs are very much hardwired into behaviour and the weekly Friday prayers all make the new normal of isolation difficult to adapt to.
The coronavirus outbreak has also highlighted the fact that no one community or group can work alone to tackle it. A Muslim and a Jewish paramedic praying in a different direction but side by side between emergency calls went viral this week. Muslim charities are mobilising to provide neccessary funds and even donating essentials to NHS staff. Mosques are even being offered as quarantine spaces.
Interfaith partnerships are also helping to supply food to coronavirus-hit pantries, with the virus providing a common cause to reach across community boundaries. At European level, the Forum Of European Muslim Youth And Student Organisations (Femyso) have worked with a variety of partners to launch the “Outbreak of Generosity” campaign and help youth provide support for vulnerable people and honour health workers and others working against the coronavirus.
The UK government has also reacted to concerns in the Muslim and Jewish community over forced cremations. Ministers have said that religious burial rights will be respected during the coronavirus outbreak. The changes came after MPs and religious groups raised fears that the Coronavirus Bill would allow local authorities to cremate bodies without the consent of the deceased or their family in order to relieve pressure on morgues and funeral services.
Over 375 mosques across the U.K. have already suspended congregations, including traditional Friday prayers. Mosques are now facing difficult questions concerning practices during the holy month of Ramadan which begins next month and usually involves more visits to the mosque and people coming together for the breaking of the fast.