By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Thousands of Muslims gathered in mosques across Bangladesh for Friday congregational prayers after more than a month, despite the continuing spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The government’s decision to allow mass prayer raised eyebrows, as there has been no sign of a slowdown in virus transmission in Bangladesh.
On Friday, the overall case count reached 13,134 with 709 new additions, while seven more fatalities took the death toll to 206.
People expressed mixed sentiments over the decision, welcoming the chance to pray at mosques during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, but also urging caution.
“I am very pleased to be here for the Jummah [Friday] prayers after a month. But I also recognize that all of this can worsen the country’s coronavirus crisis,” Shah Paran Bari Jannat told Anadolu Agency outside Bangladesh’s national mosque Baitul Mukarram in the capital Dhaka.
“This is our national mosque so we see people following social distancing and other guidelines. But there are thousands of mosques in Bangladesh where I know these rules will not be followed. The government must monitor the situation seriously.”
A special disinfectant system was installed at the mosque’s main gate, and people had to form a queue to enter the premises.
Inside, they had to maintain the recommended distance from each other.
While some other mosques in Dhaka also implemented the same measures, reports on mainstream and social media confirmed there were no such steps taken at mosques in other parts of Bangladesh.
“Since the government decided to open markets and industries, it has done well to reopen mosques too,” Maulana Abdur Rab Yusufi, vice president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Bangladesh, a faith-based political party, told Anadolu Agency.
However, he also urged people to follow government guidelines and to pray for an end to the pandemic.
- Prayers in Pakistan, South Korea
Congregational prayers were also held in Pakistan, another country where the government is easing restrictions despite soaring cases.
There has been no ban on mass prayers in the country as the government caved into pressure from clerics who opposed any such move.
As thousands crowded into mosques across the country on Friday, Pakistan's Health Ministry reported a record daily spike of 1,800 cases, taking the overall count to near 27,000, with over 600 deaths.
In South Korea too, Muslims offered the Friday congregational prayers in mosques after months, following the easing of restrictions last week.
The country had imposed strict social distancing measures in January as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
On Monday, the Seoul-based Korea Muslim Federation announced that mosques would reopen from May 6 for Friday prayers and the special Tarawih prayers offered during Ramadan.
The country reported 12 more cases on Friday, which raised the total to 10,822, including 256 deaths and almost 9,500 recoveries.
* Islamuddin Sajid contributed to this story