St Albans Muslims urge community to maintain social distancing during Ramadan to prevent spread of coronavirus
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Maintaining social distancing through the holy month of Ramadan is crucial to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
That is the message being promoted by prominent members of the St Albans Asian community, as well as local MP Daisy Cooper.
The holy month of Ramadan, which begins this evening, calls on Muslims around the world to engage in devotional fasting during the hours of daylight. The exceptions are the young, the old, the sick and some others.
But Akhtar Zaman, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire and chairman of the St Albans Islamic Centre, says that the central role played by mosques will be different this year due to social distancing.
“In normal circumstances, hundreds of people would be attending daily congregational acts of worship or breaking their fast in the community at sunset ‘iftar’ time. This year it will be different as we have to consider people’s safety and follow government, medical and religious guidance for COVID-19,” said Akhtar.
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“Congregational meetings will not be held, but mosques will continue to support the community in online virtual ways,” he said. “It’s also important to remember and support the many Muslims who are key workers and who will continue to provide critical services during Ramadan.”
Fellow Muslim and St Albans district councillor for Park Street, Syed Abidi, said: “Personally, I’m following the same advice I’m sharing with the Muslim community at large, which comes from the Muslim Council of Britain and World Health Organisation that healthy people should be able to fast during Ramadan as in previous years.
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“They advise that COVID-19 patients can consider religious licences for breaking the fast in consultation with their doctors, as they would do with any other disease.”
The Muslim Council of Britain has produced a guide to Ramadan At Home, which includes information on holding online virtual iftars, as well as advice to employers and mosques, and on working and studying from home.
Details of prayer and fasting timetables and video streaming events can also be found on the websites for the St Albans Islamic Centre, London Colney Islamic Centre and Jamia Musjid Hatfield Road, advises district councillor Iqbal Zia.
A past mayor of St Albans, Iqbal said: “This Ramadan will be challenging for everybody because normally we get together and invite friends and families, and sometimes people book a venue for their get-together.
“Gatherings for prayers at our community centres have been suspended. All the centres have their own websites where they will be giving instruction to their attendees on what they should do in these testing times. Basically, that means stay at home, be safe, and save yourself and the NHS. That’s what we will be adhering to.”
He urged: “Ramadan is the month of charity. I encourage the Muslim community to donate generously and support local charities.”
MP Daisy Cooper added: “I know that many families in St Albans will be preparing for the start of Ramadan, when normally there would be lots of family and community gatherings. Unfortunately, this year social distancing does not allow these to happen if we are to save lives and protect the NHS.”