The Government has announced the UK’s second lockdown from the 5th of November to the 1st of December. The implications of the last lockdown were clear, with “self-reported mental health and well being worsened during the pandemic. Adults experienced high anxiety levels in the week immediately preceding lockdown. The prevalence was around double the average for 2019.”
The news of a second lockdown has been difficult as people have already struggled with the social, psychological, and spiritual consequences of lockdown. For Muslims, the mosque is a place of spirituality and a home of grounding. The lockdown measures have resulted in mosques being closed down, directly impacting the lives and spirituality of Muslims.
The Government has failed to consult communities of faith. The new restrictions suggest that places of worship in England will have to close for congregational worship, which will have a huge impact on Muslim communities around the country.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) made a statement calling for an urgent review of the new lockdown restrictions on places of worship. Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB, said:
“A new national lockdown will have ramifications for us all. We must continue to work together to find the most effective ways to keep everyone safe, support our NHS and save lives. It is disappointing the Prime Minister did not mention the impact on places of worship, leaving Muslims and other faith communities with adequate guidance. Clarity must be provided as a matter of urgency.”
“Imams, mosques, Islamic associations, charities and the army of volunteers that support them have played – and are continuing to play – a crucial role in filling the gap by providing spiritual, social and welfare support for all communities. The second wave will in many ways be harder than the first – we pray for patience, fortitude, and unity across the nation in the difficult weeks ahead.”
The British Board of Scholars and Imams (BBSI) also issued a statement:
“The BBSI are working to ensure that we maximise the amount of worship that is possible in mosques, within the constraints of the eventual legal guidance and, crucially, ensuring that we keep our congregations and communities at large safe. The virus has not become less deadly, and we must remember that our communities have suffered in an outsized way. The BBSI’s position has always been to find the proper balance between maintaining our physical and spiritual health.”
There has been no apparent evidence showing that places of worship have caused further spreading of COVID-19. The BBSI said that “mosques and places of worship have done exceptional work to keep their congregations safe whilst ensuring their religious and spiritual needs are being met.” It is unclear to many Muslim organisations and the Muslim community why places of worship are being grouped with other public venues where social interaction is held in a very different way.
The MCB have stated that themselves and other “partner organisations are writing to the Government to outline these concerns and call for an urgent evidence based re-assessment of the status of places of worship, taking into account the societal harms closing them poses.”