‘Freedom Day’ has coincided with the festival of Eid al-Adha in the UK. In light of rising cases, faith leaders have recommended Muslims remain vigilant while celebrating with loved ones.
Mahmood Rafiq is the head of external relations for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, which runs approximately 150 mosques and Islamic centres across the UK. Despite the easing of restrictions, Rafiq said the group will continue to follow measures to ensure their members remain safe.
“We’re still enforcing social distancing, face masks and less than 50 per cent capacity in our mosques,” he told Eastern Eye. “As you can imagine, Eid is a very big celebration and mosques literally overflow, so we are ensuring we’re limiting numbers. We’re encouraging members to pray at home because it’s safer.”
Rafiq admitted there was still some concern about the safety of followers from the BAME community, especially elders.
“Sadly, during this pandemic, a number of families have lost loved ones to Covid,” he said. “It’s still raw for us, so it’s not as straightforward as everything going back to normal again. We still have to be cautious.”
Many mosques (including the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, pictured in 2020) are only running at 50 per cent capacity
Other mosques have decided not to organise mass gatherings to celebrate Eid.
The Green Lane Masjid & Community Centre (GLMCC) in Birmingham confirmed that its annual Celebrate Eid event would be cancelled. Officials said the event, which attracts an annual attendance of up to 60,000 people, could pose significant risks due to rising Covid-19 infections.
Instead, Eid prayers will be held indoors at the masjid and at the Colts Ground situated within the Edgbaston stadium compound.
Qari Asim, a senior Imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds, said people must remain cautious during Eid, due to rising Covid infection rates across the country.
“I am confident that the Muslim community here in the UK will still be able to have a festive time with their families while exercising caution as Covid is still present among us,” he said.
It is not only places of worship that are preparing for Eid. Ishfaq Farooq, operations director of British Asian restaurant MyLahore, said they were expecting to see a higher number of Muslim customers at their venues too.
“As a business, we don’t feel everything has eased off,” Farooq told Eastern Eye. “With Eid coming up, it’s going to be extremely busy especially as people had to celebrate at home last year. Everyone will be going out to celebrate, and how do you control that?”