After a dramatic U-turn, the UK’s Prime Minister has announced his intention to put the UK into a second, albeit less severe, lockdown.
The new national restrictions include limiting congregational prayers in religious settings, and this measure has been met with frustration by all faith groups, including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) which said,
“Worship in mosques is fundamentally congregational in nature. Given extensive COVID protocols already in place in mosques, rendering congregational worship COVID secure, it is important that the government considers revising #Lockdown2 guidelines for places of worship.”
The decision to impose a second lockdown came hours after the UK passed the grim milestone of one million coronavirus cases.
In parliament, Boris Johnson fielded a hundred questions from MPs regarding #Lockdown2. Three of the relevant responses are below.
British Muslim MP Imran Hussain asked, “Many of my constituents of all faiths have raised serious concerns about restrictions that will effectively close religious’ institutions, when people need more than ever the comfort and security that their faith provides, putting a heavy burden on people’s mental health.
“Places for worship have gone to great lengths to put COVID secure measures in place and have demonstrated that congregational prayers can safely take place.
“Bradford council for mosques in particular, has been leading this work. Can I urge the Prime minister to look again at places of worship and more measured policies? And given that they have had no financial support since the beginning of the pandemic, can he ensure that they get the financial support that they need?”
Acknowledging the efforts of religious institutions, the PM responded, “I really appreciate what mosques around the country have done to make themselves COVID secure, in Bradford and elsewhere. I know how frustrating it is in our places of worship that we have to take these steps.”
“All I can say is that we need to do them as a country together, to get the R down, to get the virus down, and we will continue to ensure that people get the support that they need, in the way that I’ve outlined earlier today”
Speaking from a Christian perspective, Sir Edward Leigh extended an invitation to the PM, “Would he join me at daily mass at Westminster cathedral tomorrow. Would he like to witness the extreme social distancing, the constant cleansing after services, the mask wearing. All factors taken far more seriously than almost anywhere else. Could he offer hope to the faith communities?”
Again the PM shared the frustration, “I’m so sorry that faith communities temporarily must go through this difficult period of not being able to observe services in the way that they want to. It is only 28 days Mr Speaker. The candle in the darkness, if we get this right, is that we will be able to go back to something much more like normal life by Christmas and people will be able to celebrate Christmas in Churches and elsewhere.”
While MP Saqib Bhatti touched on the point that in the UK Christmas is not just a celebration for Christians, but it marks an important day in the annual calendar for families of all faiths to spend time together.
He asked, “2020 has been desperately difficult for the whole country. And I know the PM is committed to end this situation by December 2nd. Can my right honorable gentleman ensure that we can get some sort of normal Christmas, and that we have measures in place so households can mix, at least by December 25th?”
To this the PM responded, “I’m conscious that we’ve got Diwali, we’ve got Hannukah, and we’ve got many many religious celebrations coming up in December. I do want people to have as normal a Christmas as possible. And that’s why it’s important the whole country comes together to follow these measures. I’m sure if we do, we’ll get the R down, and people will have as normal a Christmas as possible.”
Should the parliament approve Lockdown2 measures on Wednesday, it appears they will put congregational prayers on hold, at the very least till the start of December.
While not as lengthy or as frustrating as in the first lockdown, British Muslims, indeed British people of all faiths, will simply need to be patient for some weeks, so we as a nation can help bring the spread of coronavirus under control, and return to congregational prayers and of course, having a normal Christmas as possible.