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The New Arab

Britain's BBC to broadcast Muslim prayers as mosques remain closed over coronavirus

Mosques have closed in Britain following government instructions [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 April, 2020

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As Ramadan approaches, Britain's public broadcasting corporation has said it will begin airing Muslim prayer services while mosques remain shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] will begin airing Muslim prayers from Friday morning on its local radio services, according to a journalist from the BBC Radio 4 station.

"BBC local radio stations to broadcast Islamic prayers from tomorrow morning," journalist Harry Farley wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Quoting Chris Burns, head of BBC Local Radio, he added: “Many Muslims will feel a void in their lives where prayers used to be - a feeling the will be magnified as we approach Ramadan.”

The move comes as mosques around Britain remain closed to the public following a government order for places of worship to close on March 23.

The announcement was welcomed by some on Twitter, including from adherents of other faiths.

"As a Church of England Priest, I am fully supportive of this idea. I am thankful that the BBC is supporting the faith of my Muslim sisters and brothers," wrote one user.

"As a Christian I think this is an excellent idea," wrote another.

Some, meanwhile, greeted the annouoncement with hostility, making reference to false reports that British Muslims are spreading the coronavirus by continuing mosque attendance.

"What a load of rubbish, they can pray at home but we know they are not complying with Emergency rules," wrote one disgruntled Twitter user, in a tweet that seemingly referred to the false reports shared among far-right social networks.

Read more: Far-right groups circulate ‘fake’ video of Muslims breaking UK coronavirus lockdown

Responding to the negative messages, Farley later tweeted:
"And to those complaining about / questioning this, just a reminder that a Christian service is broadcast each Sunday at 8am on all 39 BBC local radio stations."

More than 375 mosques and prayer facilities suspended congregational activities in the first week of the UK government's instructions on social distancing, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Among them are some of the biggest mosques in Britain, including the East London Mosque, which has capacity for 7,000 worshippers, London Central Mosque which sees over 5,000 people, and Birmingham Central Mosque, which regularly hosts over 2,500 people on Fridays.

The impact of Britain's mosques closing is likely to be felt more acutely once the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in the third week of April.

“Safeguarding all of our communities is paramount, and it’s reassuring so many mosques and prayer facilities have heeded this advice in trying their best to minimise the spread of the coronavirus,” Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB said last month.

Read also: Muslim authorities suspend traditional funeral rites to bury coronavirus 'martyrs'

“Crowds at mosques draw the elderly, vulnerable and those who are high risk. With the increasing rate of transmission and the number of deaths, for the safety of our families, our communities and society, we cannot afford to take any risks.

“We all have an Islamic and public duty to protect one another from harm, and I hope the remaining mosques, Islamic centres and prayer facilities across the UK take this extraordinary step in these unprecedented times and suspend all congregational activities.”

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