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Muslim communities in Leicester feel abandoned by authorities during Eid Al Adha celebration

After the festivities of Eid Al Adha, plans had to be unexpectedly withdrawn across the weekend, and many Muslim communities in Leicester were left feeling "sad, disconnected and bitterly disappointed".

Having spent many months period in the lockdown because of the current coronavirus pandemic, people in Leicester eagerly awaited updates which were expected to be announced on Thursday by the council.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced very late on Thursday that there would be some easing of measures brought in to combat an unexpected spike in coronavirus, while other restrictions would remain.

Image credit Hertfordshire Mercury

Just hours before Eid celebrations were set to begin, people were forced to cancel their plans. However, the festivity is very important and significant to the Muslim communities, as Eid al-Adha is the last of the two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year and considered the holier of the two. It honours the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God's command. Before Ibrahim could sacrifice his son, however, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. The importance of the Islamic religious festival has been compared to Christmas in many social media posts over the weekend - many asking how people would feel if a similar announcement was made on Christmas Eve.

The Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) has released a statement expressing their distress for how the lockdown updates have been handled, saying: “It has amplified the real lack of planning or consideration, lack of meaningful representation and a distinct lack of understanding of the religious and cultural intricacies of citizens of this country.”

After the initial confusion, it was later clarified by the council that the lockdown would be eased, so people could visit pubs restaurants and non-essential shops but visiting households and private gardens would be still prohibited to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the FMO declared: “What is considered a blessed night of merry anticipation, proceeded into frustration and desperation intensified by mixed messages from some sections of the media and members of parliament.

“This has naturally left the community feeling sad, disconnected and bitterly disappointed.”

Feelings of anger and disappointment within Muslim communities was further aggravated by comments suggesting ethnic minorities were responsible for the spread of coronavirus without supporting any evidence.

Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the FMO. Image credit Matt Short/Leicestershire Live

West Yorkshire MP, Craig Whittaker told LBC Radio, when addressing the lockdown in Yorkshire that "it is the BME communities that are not taking this seriously enough."

Meanwhile, images and videos are taken from Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, went viral on social networks, showing restricted numbers of pilgrims observing social distancing, and demonstrating that it is possible to be careful but still believing and observing religious practises during the COVID-19 era.

“Our city, our communities, the Muslim community, which reflects the breadth of the BAME community and proportionately high numbers of frontline workers locally and across the country, deserve better.

“We at the very least deserve better as citizens than to be frantically searching for answers on the eve of what should have been a festive day,” Nagdi said.

The Federation of Muslim Organisations has worked with several mosques and communities in the city to proactively ensure the safety of Muslims and the wider community. Plans to close places of worship and put safety measures in place were being discussed with the support of health professionals ahead of the lockdown, to comply with the safety measures but still being able to profess their faith.

Mosques were closed throughout the holiest month in the Islamic calendar - Ramadan and remained closed even after places of worship were permitted to open for individual worship.

Planning has been underway for mosques to reopen this week with new guidance, regulations and announcements.

Eid celebrations at Grand Holy Mosque in Saudi Arabia. Image credit Middle East Online

Nagdi said: “Recent events including this ghastly pandemic has only exacerbated and exposed the systematic inequality in society and the core infrastructure of our country."

Throughout the Leicester lockdown, a number of the potential reasons for the spread were reported on including unregulated and illegally-run factories and the suggestion that multigenerational households could be a factor.

The FMO is now urging those in positions of power across sectors of the media and elected officials to reflect on building a “fairer” instead of resorting to “lazy and simplistic” blaming of any, one community. Nagdi explained: “Indeed, there have been failings - some cited in multiple independent reports and some which will undoubtedly come to light in the future.

“In the meantime, any scapegoating would be erroneous, unfair and only satisfy those who seek to divide us locally and nationally.

“On the contrary, we must draw upon the correlative values of our faith and British values of steadfastness and unwavering unity to collectively tackle this grave threat which endangers us all and for a better world.”


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