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Lifting churches, mosques ban will escalate COVID-19 spread – MURIC

By Idowu Abdullahi, 

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has expressed concerns that the reopening of churches and mosques for congregational prayers as reported in some states in the country may aid the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country and rendered useless the gains being recorded against the virus.

It said the impromptu reopening without proper approval by the Federal government and stakeholders in the fight against coronavirus, particularly the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), which had insisted on closure of mosques, may lead to surge in cases of the viral infection and aggravate community spread of the virus.

MURIC Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, described as unwise, the state governments order in in Borno, Gombe and Zamfara which permitted the reopening of mosques in the three states, adding that the Muslim communities must exercise caution to avoid mass deaths as a result of congregational prayers.

Akintola, through a statement he released to newsmen on Monday, argued that that since the Muslims pattern of prayers can easily aid the spread of coronavirus, mosques should remain closed until the Federal Government declares the country safe from the pandemic.

According to him, the reopening of mosques contravenes the social distancing and closures of religious places of worship order of the apex government, saying the Muslim faithfuls must cooperate with authorities to defeat the pandemic and not serve as stumbling block against the government measures to contain the pestilence.

“The pattern of congregating in mosques may even be more prone to infections than some other places. Unlike others who assemble for worship once in a week or once in a year, Muslims congregate five times daily for the five
daily prayers, once weekly for jumu’ah prayer and twice annually for the festivals. It is noteworthy that the last three draw mammoth crowds.

“Though kaleidoscopic and symptomatic of our unity and strength, the manner of our worship in congregation where we stand shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet in rows that allow no gap whatsoever also renders Muslim worshippers most prone to the spread of infectious diseases particularly during a pandemic like this. Our prostration where all heads touch the ground simultaneously and rise together gives cause for concern about the likelihood of one worshipper breathing almost directly into another’s nostrils. A pragmatic and realistic approach is therefore necessary on the issue of reopening of mosques. It is bad enough that there is fire on the
mountain. But it may be worse if we use our hands to draw the fire to our rooftops.

“It is therefore our considered opinion that the authorities in the three states (Borno, Gombe and Zamfara) should reconsider their decisions particularly before the Id al-fitr festival prayer which is fast approaching. We remind the three states that the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) had advised Muslims against congregations until further notice. We therefore suggest that the leadership of the
Nigerian Muslim community, namely, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the NSCIA should be consulted before the decision to reopen mosques can be implemented,” the statement read.

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