Coronavirus and Islam: Pakistani clerics refuse to shut down mosques
As Islamic clerics refuse to stop allowing religious congregations, Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to downplay the coronavirus threat to his country. Could this be a “recipe for disaster” for Pakistan?
Last week, Pakistani President Arif Alvi and provincial governors held a meeting with Sunni and Shiite clerics to convince them to close mosques for congregational prayers across the country amid rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases in the country. The clerics, however, rejected the request.
“We can in no way close mosques … It is not possible in any circumstances in an Islamic country,” said Muneeb-bur-Rehman, a cleric who attended the meeting.
The clerics’ blatant refusal to shun collective prayers has raised doubts about Pakistan’s resolve to fight the pandemic, which has killed at least 25 people in the country and infected nearly 2,000.
Read more: Is Pakistan taking COVID-19 too lightly?
Earlier in March, when coronavirus cases in Pakistan were relatively lower, the federal government allowed Shiite pilgrims from Iran to return to the country through Baluchistan province.
The pilgrims were not properly quarantined, which resulted in a spike of infections. Also, the government allowed thousands of Sunni worshippers to go ahead with the “Tablighi Jamaat” congregation in Pubjab province. Many of the new COVID-19 cases have emerged from that mass gathering.
Health experts say the government’s measures are inadequate, fearing that the number of coronavirus cases in the South Asian country could increase exponentially in the coming weeks.
Civil society activists say that Pakistani authorities continue to appease Islamists even when the country is facing a worsening public health crisis.
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