Places of worship need to remain vigilant during funerals, says Leeds Imam Qari Asim
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His call to action follows after a Lancashire mosque where more than 250 mourners attended a funeral last week despite coronavirus restrictions has been forced to close. Muslim leaders have urged those who attended the Jamia Ghosia Mosque on July 13 in Blackburn to self isolate or undergo Covid-19 tests, after the Imam tested positive.
Imam Asim, the chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, told The Yorkshire Post: "When it is a time of death it is a very emotional time for the family and friends - we would usually gather in large numbers to pay our respects to our loved ones.
"But given the pandemic that we are in - our message is it should be following the Government guidelines and that an absolute minimum number of people attend."
Imam Asim, who has overseen seven funerals, with social distancing in place and following the Government guidelines, during the coronavirus, in his role as the Imam for the Leeds’ Makkah Mosque, said UK muslim leaders needed to work together to reduce the risk to their local communities.
“We need to work together to minimise the risk to our community and also against the potential rise in xenophobia,” he said.
He added muslim leaders needed to 'speak out' if mosques were not following the guidelines.
Imam Asim said: “If it becomes apparent that there are other mosques who are not following strict guidelines, potentially it will have a backlash on the whole community and the mosque could be closed again.
“Overall mosques in the UK and especially Yorkshire have set a very good example.
"But BAME communities have been disproportionately affected than any other community, therefore it is even more important that we ensure those safety measures are in place."
Professor Mahendra Patel, from the University of Bradford, who has led outreach work to highlight important health messages to BAME communities in Yorkshire and beyond, in languages other than English, including Gujarati, Hindi/Urdu during the coronavirus, said the Government needed to provide extra support including clearer messaging at a local level.
"How do you expect communities to understand this, when the simple messages were not being understood and adhered to and implemented," he said.
Professor Patel, who is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, and has worked extensively with different BAME communities around health inequalities, said utilising local pharmacies and "champions in the community" to provide clear messaging at a local level to the most vulnerable groups could help.
Prof Patel said: "Let us mobilise that force, that is an added strength we can engage with those communities better."
He added: "For the BAME community and those at high risk they have got to exercise caution, you’ve got to be sensible and you’ve got to be conservative in some of the practices that you’ve been normally accustomed to because this pandemic is still around, it’s with us as we breathe and as we talk."
A Government spokesperson said: "It is clear Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted certain groups and we are determined to take the right steps to protect them and minimise their risk.
"Following the findings of Public Health England reports published last month, the Equalities Minister is taking forward vital work to tackle these disparities and protect our most vulnerable communities from the impact of the virus.
"This includes strengthening and improving public health communications to ensure they can reach all communities across the country."
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