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Coronavirus: Muslims urged to pray at home as Walsall mosques close

Tens of thousands of worshippers are being urged to pray at home as mosques in Walsall close their doors in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

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Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO) in Walsall has held emergency meetings and encouraged town mosques to close amid the coronavirus pandemic

The Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO) in Walsall has held emergency meetings and encouraged town mosques to close and told the 30,000-strong community to stay home when the daily calls to prayers take place.

Thousands of Walsall residents go to mosques daily with Friday prayer, known as Jumu’ah, attracting 10-12,000 worshippers most weeks. This is also being suspended in the wake of the crisis.

Special meetings will also be held to discuss arrangements for the holy month of Ramadan, which is due to start on April 23.

Discussions are also taking place around burial arrangements should anyone die as a result of the virus.

Mohammed Arif, interim chairman of the UMO, said they accepted this would be distressing for members of the Muslim community but the severity of the COVID-19 meant they had to act.

He added almost all the mosques have agreed to close their doors and the UMO will work with other faith groups, the council and voluntary sector to support vulnerable residents in the borough.

As well as suspending daily prayers and Jumu’ah, mosques are also being urged to suspend classes and activities for children.

Mr Arif said: “We are aware that our community is disproportionately at risk from the virus due to various health related factors and extended family structure.

“Thus, the virus may have a much more grave and potentially fatal effect on such vulnerable individuals.

“After carefully reviewing the government advice and consulting our members and delegates to the UMO from local mosques, we recommend and encourage all mosques in Walsall to take necessary measures in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“We understand that many individuals who never miss daily prayers or Fridays at their mosque may be emotionally moved by this decision, however, we must truly understand the severity of this virus, and all our decisions have come with a heavy heart.”

He added: “We will continue to work alongside Walsall Council, local mosques, faith partners like St. Gabriel’s Church, St Paul’s the Crossing and Junction 10 Church, Accord Group, Age Matters and other organisations in order to assist those who are most vulnerable in our neighbourhoods and in Walsall, regardless of their religion, colour or creed.

“Meetings are taking place to agree on how best to support our people in isolation in terms of prayer needs, shopping, medication and delivery of food with safety in mind for everyone.

“UMO has been in consultation with national burial bodies to put in place measures to bury our loved ones in the event anyone dies from Covid-19 virus. We will shortly release outlining procedures to follow.

“The fasting month is due to start around April 23. UMO will organise an online meeting to discuss actions required around opening of the fast gatherings and special evening prayers.”

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