British Muslim leaders are reluctant to reopen mosques despite government plans to lift restriction for places of worship

A senior Imam has advised mosques not to open until they can hold congregational prayers, despite government plans for places of worship.

The government is expected to announce that churches, mosques and synagogues in England can open their doors for private prayer from 15 June.

But as mosques are primarily for congregational prayers Muslim leaders have warned the plans lack clarity.

Imam Qari Asim said opening them would “cause more challenges”.

Full services and weddings will still be banned under the measures, which the prime minister is expected to outline to his cabinet on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland already allows private worship but Scotland and Wales have not yet done so.

Downing Street says any changes are contingent on the government’s five tests for easing lockdown continuing to be met.

Imam Asim, chairman of the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), has called on mosques not to reopen until it is safe to do so and they are able to hold congregational prayers.

He said: “The fundamental difference between mosques and some other places of worship is that mosques are first and foremost used for congregational prayers.

“Individual prayers can be performed anywhere, primarily at homes. Accordingly, opening the mosques on 15 June will cause more challenges for mosques and imams as the expectation from the community will be to resume collective worship.”

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said communities needed “unambiguous guidance” so they could ensure the safety of everyone.

He said: “Mosques are provisioned primarily for congregational worship, so there is currently significant uncertainty and concern from mosque leaders on how the new regulations can actually be implemented.”

Mr Khan added that the MCB, an umbrella group of Muslim associations, had been consulting with communities across the country and it was clear proactive planning about reopening mosques had been taking place.

MINAB has also called on the government to allow small groups to meet for the five daily prayers in mosques, so long as social-distancing and other measures are respected.

The group has prepared guidelines for mosques to start putting in place ahead of their eventual reopening, with particular concern about the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

A No 10 spokesperson said Mr Johnson recognised the importance of people being able to have space to “reflect and pray, to connect with their faith, and to be able to mourn for their loved ones”.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said ensuring places of worship could reopen was a priority as their “contribution to the common good of our country is clear” and said faith communities had shown “enormous patience and forbearance” since the lockdown came into effect.

Places of worship have been closed for almost two months, and in some cases even longer, after closing their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Jenrick has warned that large gatherings will be difficult to manage for some time, particularly with the demographics in some religions meaning many could be vulnerable to the virus and because practices such as singing could enable the virus to spread more freely


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