Hyderabad: With the Telangana government giving administrative clearance for all religious places effective, 8 June 2020, to open up post lockdown which was meant to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic – A cross-section of Muslims mainly doctors, public health experts, and socio-religious groups are concerned about the mosques opening up for the public, which may up the risk of the spread of the coronavirus as seen in other countries particularly in South Africa.
Social organizations working in public health have stated that 40% of the present rise in the COVID-19 cases in the city under the GHMC limits, is on account of social gatherings, crowded places under one roof like hospitals, malls, vegetable and fish markets, function halls, etc and with now religious places of worship opening up more so the mosques, the danger of the virus quickly spreading loom large.
Although most of the mosques have put in a list of Dos & don’ts (SOP) like maintaining social distance while praying, shortening pray times, doing ablution at home and wearing a face mask, etc; yet these measures are not adequate to guarantee protection and safety of musalis or devout who would want to offer prayers in the mosques starting tomorrow.
Helping Hand Foundation (NGO), which works in several large government hospitals has said that in spite of provisioning of PPEs, N-95 masks and sanitisers in hospitals over 200 plus doctors and paramedical staff has tested positive for COVID-19 in the city and one of the main reasons is that there is always a huge load of patients in these hospitals and they are most congested and crowded.
Public low on civic sense
The other important point is that unfortunately the many people especially from lower economic strata where almost 60% of the 8000 mosques are located in the city have poor civic sense and may not fully appreciate and adhere to the safety standards being framed said Mr. Mujtaba Hasan Askari, Helping Hand Foundation.
With limited health care resources and pandemic peak not yet reached, it will be too early and risky to open mosques – opening mosques will not only be attracting cases but also giving a chance for hatred mongers a chance for spreading fear and politicising says, Dr. Md. Shafi, Consultant, Infectious diseases Omega Bibi Oncology hospital.
The gradual reopening of everything is acceptable, but the reopening of places of worship seems unwarranted, especially at a time when cases are spreading like wildfire. Indoor gatherings carry the highest risk of transmission. Masses, Darshans, Jumma prayers, and other religious gatherings /meetings will pose unnecessary additional risk says Dr. Shaeq Mirza, Consultant physician and diabetes specialist, Apollo Hyderguda, who along with another group of doctors have sent a representation to the Chief Minister to reconsider the decision of reopening of a mosque in TS.
Both Kerala and Goa have given advisory not to open a mosque in their respective states.
There are already debates going on the social media if social distancing in the mosque should be encouraged or is it against the tenets of Islam, as Islam recommends that the devout need to stand shoulder to shoulder in prayers, however many don’t understand that the concept behind such an act is aimed at eliminating injustice &is promote equality between humans regardless of stature said Askari.
HHF, (Helping Hand Foundation), which recently reached out to Imams and Mauzans in over 100 mosques in the city to pay their salaries will be talking to them and sensitizing them about safety and protection and encourage closure of mosques at least for Friday congregations.
The NGO further added that, with no centralised religious command to give a diktat, many masjids are affiliated to a particular jamaat may ultimately follow the directions from the particular jamaat.
Many likeminded & forward-looking Muslims are concerned not only about safety alone but about a possible backlash in the event, a community outbreak happens particularly after the Tablighi Jamaat incident.