The Impact of COVID-19 on Religious Holidays
Categories: Latest News
Monday May 11 2020
Since the start of lockdown, religious communities across the UK have had to adjust to the new reality as they celebrate their religious festivals. The Jewish festival of Passover took place on April 8, which was shortly followed by Good Friday on April 10 and Easter Sunday on April 12 for Christian communities, before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began on April 24.
Usually, these spiritual holidays are spent gathering with families and friends to participate in traditional rituals and feasts. However, the current pandemic has seen the necessary enforcement of strict guidelines to flatten the curve of infections, meaning that religious festivals are being celebrated in a very different way to how they have been in the past.
Muslims are currently observing Ramadan, the holiest month for reflection, in which they fast during daylight hours, congregate for prayers at night, and share meals as a community during iftar time. But with physical distancing directives and lockdown measures to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease, many of Ramadan’s rituals and traditions are being adapted to reflect the need to protect public health.
Like other faiths, Muslims in the UK are using technology to meet the challenges of lockdown. During Ramadan, mosques in the UK have been live-streaming sermons, Quranic recitation and prayers, and fundraising for charities on online platforms. Platforms such as Zoom are being used to host iftar parties and allow families and friends to communicate and celebrate with each other from their own homes.
Despite this, dangerous global conspiracy theories connecting Muslims to the spread of the coronavirus continue to abound. The UK is not immune to these conspiracies, with counter-terrorism police recently investigating far-right groups accused of “trying to use the coronavirus crisis to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment”. These groups have been fuelled by prominent far-right personalities, including Katie Hopkins, who suggested that the UK police should follow the example of India in deploying violence against Muslims during the lockdown. Likewise, Tommy Robinson shared a video allegedly showing British Muslims attending prayers at a “secret mosque”. According to the Guardian, the West Midlands police subsequently dismissed these claims. Meanwhile, Daily Mail commentator, Andrew Pearce, suggested that there would be a “spike” in coronavirus cases during Ramadan. Pearce tweeted, “If families gather for holy month of Ramadan will there be a huge spike in Covid cases. Doctors are very worried”. On the contrary, 375 mosques and prayer facilities in the UK suspended prayers and encouraged congregants to remain at home even before the nationwide lockdown was announced, and the remainder complied after the restrictions came in place.
The outbreak of COVID-19 means that religious and cultural commitments during this year’s Ramadan are being met with unique challenges. Strong familial and community relations are highly encouraged in the Islamic faith, particularly during the month of Ramadan. However, contrary to the prejudiced conspiracies being put out by the far-right, Muslims like other members of society are complying to the guidelines set by the Government to try and slow the spread of the virus, while seeking to keep the spirituality of Ramadan alive through alternative measures.
Moreover, despite fasting throughout the month, Muslims continue to make valuable contributions to the frontline of the NHS, and across the country are volunteering in national efforts to help the vulnerable in their communities at this precarious time. As but one example, Dabirul Choudhury is 100 years old and has raised tens of thousands of pounds for coronavirus victims from the UK to Bangladesh by walking laps in his garden, having been inspired by Captain Tom Moore.
To find out more about the amazing initiatives that Muslims are pioneering throughout the crisis, follow MEND on social media and follow our Muslim Hero Watch.