The government has announced new coronavirus restrictions which means that that people living in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire will not be able to meet others in houses or gardens unless they are in the same support bubble. Muslims make up between 5 – 25% of the affected towns.
The restrictions were announced at 9pm last night – 3 hours before the Eid al Adha festival was due to begin. Government guidance says mosques are allowed to remain open for prayers.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock denied the measures were brought in to stop Eid al Adha parties. In an ITV interview he said: “I really understand the impact of this on our Muslim friends who are celebrating Eid tonight and I’m very grateful to the Imams locally and religious leaders who are working to have covid secure ways to celebrate Eid. But it does sadly mean that people won’t be able to meet in each others houses or gardens because we’ve seen how the disease spread. They will be able to go to mosques or meet in parks. We thought very carefully about it, but the Imams have found socially distanced covid secure ways of having Eid celebrations and religious worship.”
Qari Asim, the chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board tweeted: “On the day of #Eid, being told that you can’t visit your mother’s house or other family households is extremely challenging & disheartening but let’s remember at the core of #EidAlAdha is sacrifice & selflessness. Let’s celebrate safely! #NoHugging #SocialDistancing”
Harun Khan, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “With the first day of Eid today, for Muslims in the affected areas it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself. Whilst the safety of communities is of paramount importance, as has remained the case from the very outset of this crisis, so is effective communication delivered in a timely fashion. Failure to communicate makes it difficult for communities across the country to continue working together to minimise the spread of the virus, whilst eroding trust in the ability of authorities to steer our course as we tackle the Covid19 crisis. The UK government has failed to provide clarity on the shockingly short notice and the reasoning behind the new rules that British Muslims deserve – any such clarification would be most welcome.”
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi told Good Morning Britain that the late announcement had caused utter confusion “I had phone calls this morning right through to 1am, into the early hours of the morning saying ‘well what does that mean? I think the lack of clarity and the lateness of the message hasn’t encouraged what effectively throughout the pandemic has been a community-wide response across the UK.”