Senior Imam Advises Mosques to Not Reopen Despite Government Plan08 Jun 2020
A senior British Imam has advised mosques to not reopen mosques despite government plans to launch a phased reopening of places of worship. Imam Qari Asim said that mosques are primarily for congregational prayers and warned that government plans are lacking clarity.
The comments of Asim, the chairman of the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board, come as the UK prepares to relax lockdown measures, including in houses of worship. Mosques have been advised to take a number of precautionary steps to prevent the coronavirus from spreading among worshippers.
Places of worship may open to individual worship from June 15
On Sunday, the UK government has announced that plans are underway to open places of worship in England to individual prayers by June 15. The announcement came following news that planned for a phased reopening is underway.
The planned phased reopening would involve adherence to social distancing measures including limiting the number of worshippers.
The plans themselves were made following discussions with Places of Worship Taskforce that was chaired by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. Jenrick said that reopening places of worship has been a priority, especially since there is a communal need for solace, comfort, stability and dignity. However, Jenrick acknowledged that full congregational prayers would probably not continue for some time.
The British Board of Scholars and Imams, which participated in the Taskforce, similarly acknowledged that the reopening, while positive, would come with its own challenges to ensure the safety of worshippers and acknowledged that it is looking for clarification from the government about health and safety measures.
Reopening mosques would “cause more challenges”
It is because of this lack of clarity that Imam Qari Asim, the chairman of the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board, has called on mosques to not reopen until it is safe enough to hold full congregational prayers. Asim said that unlike other places of worship, mosques are primarily for congregational prayers and individual prayers can be performed home. He added that mosques would face challenges with the expected June 15 reopening dates, as many worshippers will expect communal worship to continue.
Similarly, Harun Khan, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that communities need “unambiguous guidance” to ensure everyone’s safety. Khan echoed Asim’s comments that mosques are primarily for congregational worship.
The UK’s Muslim community is not alone in these concerns. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and the most senior Roman Catholic in England and Wales expressed gratitude for the decision to reopen churches, but said that he does not expect every Catholic church to reopen. He added that the decision to reopen would be led by local decisions and conditions.
It is expected that the UK government will make an official announcement on the matter on Tuesday.