During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the British media has been remarkably muted in documenting the enormous efforts by Muslims across the country who have given and continue to give an immense amount of support to those in need during these challenging and unprecedented times.
A newly released report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims documents a little-known fact: in the UK, despite the majority of Muslims hailing from BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) backgrounds, individual Muslims and Muslim organisations alike have provided a “remarkable level of contributions” during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, “often on the front line, responding in every region across all four nations.”
Research for the report, entitled Rising to the Challenge: A community’s response to Covid-19, began in June 2020. The co-chairs of the APPG on British Muslims, Mark Eastwood MP and Wes Streeting MP, note in the foreword:
“We began the work for this report in June 2020, as evidence of faith institutions and faith groups rising to the challenge to serve their communities in their hour of need mounted and we became acutely aware of the fantastic work undertaken by British Muslims…”
“We could not have anticipated at the time that we would be now be living under the third national lockdown in the UK or indeed be facing up to just how devastating a toll the Covid-19 pandemic has taken on the UK population…”
“It is in this light that we present the findings of our latest report, Rising to the Challenge, because when these days of hardship have passed, we hope the spirit of community care, charity and concern for the elderly witnessed throughout these dark times will remind us of the contributions made by British Muslims during the pandemic and drive forward new initiatives to ensure that our faith-based civil society organisations can flourish in the future.” 
The 88-page report details how British Muslims have changed and adapted to the fragile and uncertain future of a new ‘normal’ because of COVID-19. The report also highlights the dozens of initiatives and projects that Muslim organisations have developed to support their communities across Britain.
The report paints the most accurate picture to date of the vital work undertaken by British Muslims in dealing with the impact that COVID-19 has had on the country.
Amongst others was the example of Dabirul Choudhury, a British-Bangladeshi centenarian who, whilst fasting during Ramadan, walked 100 laps in his 80m-wide communal garden, raising a staggering £200,000 for victims of COVID-19, not only in the UK but also in Bangladesh and around the world.
In addition, food banks and food parcel projects organised by Muslims are thoroughly documented over six pages of the report. Donations and deliveries are discussed in five pages, and details of makeshift health facilities, temporary mortuaries, signposting and referral services, mental health support, and donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) are highlighted over four-and-a-half pages. The support provided by Muslim businesses is documented across three pages.
The report notes:
“Phone lines providing essential social contact to shielding groups; food banks which have put food on the table for families who have struggled to find or fund food deliveries; domestic abuse helplines for women at acute risk of violence in the home; pop-up mortuaries to shelter the deceased and offer families some assurance that their loved ones will be buried with dignity and in accordance with religious rites; prayer halls which have been put at the disposal of local NHS Trusts; mental health counselling services offered to those unable to access regular services or simply seeking a faith-based intervention; and funding donations of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These are merely a handful of examples of the consummate dedication of British Muslim charities to the national effort during the pandemic.” 
In addition to the numerous successes of British Muslims in their contributions to dealing with the pandemic, the report discusses how Eid was effectively cancelled at the 11th hour after the Government haphazardly decided to announce renewed regional restrictions on movement owing to the rapid spread of the virus.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, thought it wise not only to announce new measures a mere three hours before the joyous occasion of Eid al-Adha, but he also chose the social media platform Twitter to notify residents in the areas of Greater Manchester, east Lancashire, and parts of West Yorkshire of the new rules.
Justifiably, comparisons were made in the report with the plans in place for Christmas and New Year, and the fact that it rather seemed as though there was one rule in place for Muslims and another rule for others.
“It is worth noting the contrast with the initial timing and communication of the decision relating to festivities over Christmas with the Government, in co-ordination with the regions, taking steps to announce the planned restrictions well in advance to allow families and faith communities to prepare for an important festival and public holiday.” 
Shaheer is a regular contributor for Islam21c. He maintains a strong interest in current affairs, as well as the changing global conditions of Muslim populations. Prior to joining Islam21c, he developed a number of years’ experience in the health and social care sector and has previously volunteered at the Muslim Youth Helpline.