Flurry of mosque closures, despite Government exemption

29th Jan 2021
Flurry of mosque closures, despite Government exemption

Harrow Central Mosque (Credit: Robert Cutts – Bristol/WikiCommons)

There has been a flurry of voluntary mosque closures in the UK to help curb spiralling Covid-19 infection rates, this, despite places of worship in England being exempt from mandatory shutdowns during the third lockdown and being Covid secure. Almost all major mosques in the London boroughs of Ealing, Hackney, Harrow, Haringey, Kensington, Leyton, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Westminster, to name but a few, have closed their doors during the first week of January.

PM, Boris Johnson, announced a national lockdown on January 4, calling on people to stay home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. The decision followed a drastic jump in cases, attributed to the new variant of Covid-19, which is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible.

New Government guidelines state that the public can attend places of worship for a service. However, in a letter to Johnson, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, demanded all places of worship be closed. Khan warned that more than 1% of the city’s 9 million residents tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of January, with one in 30 estimated to be infected.

In a statement to The Muslim News, the Mayor of London said the capital’s faith communities have, “from the earliest stages of the pandemic, provided practical help and comfort to Londoners of all backgrounds and beliefs but, with the levels of the virus circulating in our communities as high as it is, I no longer think allowing in-person gatherings is in the best interest of Londoners’ safety.

“That is why I am calling on the Government to close places of worship immediately, save for funeral services. Until that happens, I am urging all of London’s faith communities to look beyond what is technically permitted and focus on the safest course of action for all Londoners – this now means avoiding all communal worship for the time being to help reduce the risk of infections spreading.”

 

London & the South

One of England’s and the capital’s largest mosques, the East London Mosque closed on January 6, with management vowing to review the decision. A spokesman for East London Mosque, told The Muslim News, “This decision has not been taken lightly. But just as in last March, when we and many other mosques closed even before the Government announced a national lockdown, we’re putting the safety of our congregation, our staff and our volunteers above our strong desire to maintain communal worship.” Neighbouring Brick Lane Jamme Masjid has also closed for the latest lockdown.

Elsewhere in the East end, there were closures in Barking (Al Madina Mosque & Masjid Alnoor); Hackney (Suleymaniye Mosque); Walthamstow (Darul Uloom Qadria Jilania & Jamia Masjid Ghousia) Enfield (Rumi Mosque) and Redbridge (Ilford Islamic Centre & Redbridge Islamic Centre).

In a joint statement, North London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, Muslim Welfare House and Al Risaalah Mosque announced their closure following ‘consultation with Islamic scholars, medical professionals, and other mosques and centres.’ The North Finchley Mosque had announced its closure on January 6.

West London’s most known mosques notably London Central Mosque, Al Manaar and the West London Islamic Centre, Kings Cross Mosque have all closed. In Greater London, the Muslim Forum of Middlesex announced that Harrow’s biggest mosques “suspend all prayers given escalating Covid-19 crisis in the borough.

Following the national lockdown and the extremely dire situation specifically in Harrow with an infection rate close to 1,000 cases per 100,000, there is a real concern that the situation will continue to get worse – a concern reiterated by Harrow Council,” announced the Forum on January 7.

“To keep our communities and the wider society safe, the biggest mosques in Harrow have decided to go beyond Government guidance and suspend all public prayers. The mosques include Harrow Central Mosque, Sri Lankan Cultural Centre, Masjidun Noor, KSIMC London (Hujjat, Stanmore) and SICM (Mahfil Ali), some of which have not re-opened since the beginning of the pandemic,” added the Forum.

A Harrow Central Mosque spokesman said it closed “due to high [Covid-19 infection] numbers and Northwick Park Hospital being full. We didn’t want to take the risk as we spoke to a few doctors, and we were told [the local infection is] one in 15.”
Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre Slough reopened decided to close the mosque from November 5 when Slough was put in Tier 4. Britain’s first (1889) purpose-built mosque, the historic Shah Jahan Masjid in Woking also announced its closure.

 

Elsewhere

East of England, community update group Islam Bedford announced that all but three mosques in Bedford closed on January 5, namely Bedford Central Mosque, Salaam Kempston Mosque, South Bedford Mosque, Bedford Islamic Centre and Hanfia Ghousia Masjid. In a tweet, the group announced that the mosques reopening “will be reviewed closer to the time.”

Mosques in Pendle, Nelson and Brierfield also closed for individual and communal prayers including Friday prayers.
Scotland & N. Ireland

Belfast Islamic Centre (BIC) closed its doors until the February 6 at the request of the Northern Ireland Assembly following the news that there have been over 30 cases linked to places of worship since reopening. Some single cluster had 50-100 infections and several deaths. And as many as one in 40 people may have Covid-19 in some areas. On January 7, BIC officials met with leaders of most of the major churches, the chief medical officer, the chief scientific officer, senior civil servants and junior ministers from the local Assembly at Stormont.

“Even with the best precautions there is still a chance of transmission should an infected person attend especially concerned over speed and spread of the new strain. Everything else has been asked to close, and they asked us to consider aligning with everyone else.

While the decision was not forced we were very much encouraged to do so. Most of the churches also have agreed to close with immediate effect,” said a spokesman for BIC to The Muslim News. In Scotland, where the closure of places of worship was made mandatory from January 8, mosques took the precautionary decision to close earlier, among them Aberdeen’s Mosque & Islamic Centre and Masjid Alhikmah & Community Centre, Dunfermline Islamic Centre, Islamic Centre Scotstoun in Glasgow and Central Mosque Lanarkshire.

*The mosques named are just a sample of the many across the country that voluntarily closed for the third lockdown. Mosques will be regularly reviewing their local status for re-opening.

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