Virtually Islamic Blog

Gary R. Bunt

COVID-19: Updated

COVID-19 coverage/issues relating specifically to Muslims and the internet.

Global Voices Online, Across Africa, COVID-19 heightens tension between faith and science, 25 Mar 2020 "While many African governments have taken stringent measures to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus that causes COVID-19, including school closures, travel bans, social distance mandates, and contact tracing, not all leaders agree with banning one kind of public assembly: faith-based gatherings." 
Swarajwa, Tamil Nadu: 4 Islamic Preachers From Indonesia And Their Local Travel Guide Test Positive For Covid-19 In Salem, 25 Mar 2020
Global Voices, Turkmenistan fights coronavirus with (more) isolation and herbal remedies, "True to form, Turkmen officialdom is keeping quiet about bad news on the horizon. They have barely mentioned the word “coronavirus,” which has not appeared on any government website after one cursory mention on March 5. That same day, citing medical sources in the capital Ashgabat, RFE/RL's Turkmenistan service wrote that there are probably at least two confirmed coronavirus cases in the country."
Global Voices, Azerbaijan signals a lockdown and a crackdown in fight against coronavirus "As usual, Azerbaijanis were looking forward to the Nowruz festival, which is celebrated on March 20-21. But this year was different; the streets are silent and the celebrations have been cancelled. Citizens over 65 years are banned from leaving their homes. The authorities have postponed all public events, including weddings, until further notice. Schools are closed until April 20. City streets have become eerily empty."
The Anadolu Agency, Myanmar Muslims offer mosques to help fight coronavirus "The Muslim community in Myanmar on Wednesday called for a unity in fighting the coronavirus as the country reported three positive cases of COVID-19, so far. "
CBC, Some Toronto-area mosques remain open despite dire warnings about COVID-19 "Group of imams disappointed worshippers are still gathering, despite calls for people to stay home."

5 Pillars, Influential British Muslim scholars urge mosques to remain open "The fatwa by Deobandi scholars Yusuf Shabbir and Mufti Shabbir Ahmad of Darul Uloom Blackburn and Mufti Muhammad Tahir of Darul Uloom Bury comes as many, if not most, mosques across the country remain open."

Al Jazeera, Coronavirus: Philippines seeks 215 who attended Malaysia event "Religious gathering in Malaysia that drew 16,000 Muslims from about 30 countries linked to spike in COVID-19 cases."

Rose S. Aslan, The Conversation, What Islamic hygienic practices can teach when coronavirus is spreading "Islamic law requires Muslims to ritually purify their body before praying. As a scholar of Islamic studies who researches ritual practices among Muslims, I have found that these practices contain both spiritual and physical benefits."

New Arab, Special coverage: How many coronavirus cases are there in the Middle East? 7d35fe11-613b-4f3c-b5a8-39a17d4087bd
The Times, Isis issues coronavirus travel advice: terrorists should avoid Europe "The Isis terrorist group is steering clear of Europe because of the coronavirus. Having previously urged its supporters to attack European cities, the group is now advising members to “stay away from the land of the epidemic” in case they become infected."
Newsweek, Iranian Senior Cleric Dies From Coronavirus As President Says Infections Peak Has Passed "Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei-Golpaygani died Monday, according to multiple Iranian news outlets. The 79-year-old cleric was a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, the body that chooses the country's supreme leader—currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."
Asharq Al-Awsat, Six Million Students Resume Studying Online in Saudi Arabia "In the Kingdom, 20 broadcasting channels have been dedicated to offer lessons to all school grades from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm. An alternative has also been provided on YouTube."Al Arabiya, Iran Assembly of Experts member Hashem Bathaei-Golpaygani dies of coronavirus "Bathaei-Golpaygani was receiving treatment in Qom’s Shahid Beheshti hospital, according to Iranian news agencies. He was initially admitted to the hospital on Saturday."

Straits Times, 250,000 pilgrims mass in Pakistan despite coronavirus warnings "Organisers late Thursday (March 12) curtailed the annual Tablighi Ijtema congregation, which had drawn people from across the country, but cited rainy weather as the cause."

ABC, Iran to call dead medical staff 'martrys' as virus kills 291 "The decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comes amid a propaganda campaign already trying to link the fight against the virus to Iran's long, bloody 1980s war with Iraq. The rising casualty figures each day in Iran suggest the fight against the new coronavirus is far from over, even as more people die from drinking methanol in the false belief it kills the virus."
Related: The New Arab, Bootleg booze touted as 'corona cure' kills dozens in Iran "The deputy prosecutor of Alborz, Mohammad Aghayari, told IRNA the dead had drunk methanol after being "misled by content online, thinking they were fighting coronavirus and curing it.""<
Some humour here amidst a difficult situation:
IQNA, Al-Azhar to Help in Efforts to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus in Egypt "According to Al-Mesriyoon website, Osama al-Hadidi, director of Al-Azhar’s Word Fatwa Center, in a recent TV interview said that Al-Azhar will make efforts to raise public awareness about the disease."

BeThatGraciousMuslim #fightcovid19 #sgunited, Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association - Pergas
Egypt Today, No need to cancel Friday prayers over corona at present: Egypt's Min. "Egyptian Minister of Awqaf [Endowment] Mohamed Mukhtar stated on Saturday that Egypt has no need now to cancel Friday prayer for coronavirus outbreak. "
IQNA, WFMS Fatwa Allows Cancelling Hajj, Umrah "Secretary-General of World Federation of Muslim Scholars (WFMS) Ali Qaradaghi issued a Fatwa (religious edict) that allows cancelling of Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage."
al Jazeera, Bethlehem under lockdown after coronavirus cases confirmed, 7 Mar 2020 "Muhannad Qaisy, a Bethlehem resident, told Al Jazeera it was nothing the Palestinians had not experienced before.
"To be honest, we're used to such measures, to be under closure, people staying at home for many nights, but for a different reason, because we live under occupation," he said.
Boom, No, Xi Jinping Did Not Visit Muslim Homes To Learn How To Fight Coronavirus "A compilation of clips of Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting the Northwest region Ningxia Hui in 2016 is viral with bizarre claims that the former made a trip to Muslim majority areas to understand why COVID-19 virus has not affected them…" … Several videos are viral on social media with claims that people of a certain faith do not get infected by the novel Coronavirus. The fake viral clips show Chinese or Asians allegedly converting to Islam after realising that Muslims were not being affected with the virus. The same narrative has been debunked by multiple fact-checkers worldwide."
Toronto City News, Islamic centre closes 3 GTA mosques over COVID-19 concerns (video report)
Jakarta Post, COVID-19: Indonesians in Saudi Arabia told to refrain from traveling to Mecca, Medina "The Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh has called on Indonesian citizens residing in Saudi Arabia to temporarily refrain from traveling to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina as part of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) containment efforts."

Arab News, Saudi Arabia closes Grand Mosque, Prophet’s Mosque between night and morning prayers

Al Bawaba, Rumour Has It: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince May Have Been Hospitalized After Contracting the Coronavirus "Unverified news of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammad Bin Zayed being placed in quarantine after contracting the novel coronavirus has been widely circulated across the internet after a US-based journalist reported it through her personal Twitter account."

The National, Coronavirus: cleaning operation under way at UAE mosques, 4 Mar 2020 The country’s Fatwa Council on Tuesday said anyone at risk of potentially contracting coronavirus – including senior citizens, those suffering from a respiratory disease and people who have weakened immune systems – should avoid going to mosques and pray at home instead."
Ardilla Syakriah, Rizki Fachriansyah and Muh. Ibnu Aqil, Jakarta Post/The Star, Covid-19 patients become victims of Indonesia’s lack of privacy protection, 5 Mar 2020. "Indonesia’s first two confirmed Covid-19 patients claim that media coverage and discussion on social media have taken a greater toll on them than the disease itself, saying that numerous breaches of privacy and the resulting stigma have left them “mentally drained”."
Deutsche Welle, Coronavirus in Iraq: Bullets, repression, Iran trump COVID-19, "Activists say Iraq's political system is the real virus, without an apparent cure. Political deadlock, violent repression and decades of corruption all outweigh fears of a transfer of the coronavirus from Iran."
Reuters/The Star, Tajikistan closes mosques to fend off coronavirus threat, 4 Mar 2020 "Tajikistan's national council of clerics told mosques on Wednesday to suspend public gatherings, including Friday prayers but excluding burial rites, to protect against the coronavirus, even though the country has not reported any cases."
Al Jazeera, Coronavirus is changing the way Muslims worship across the world "Saudi bans Umrah pilgrimage, Iran cancels Friday prayers and Singapore Muslims are urged to bring own mats to mosques.", Covid-19 re-opens religion vs. science debate in Iran
"Nothing justifies the closure of this divine duty," Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the imam who leads prayers in north-eastern Mashhad, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
"But one hodjatoleslam has a different opinion.
"If specialist doctors recommend collective prayers should be temporarily suspended or that attendance at religious sites should be reduced, then this should be adhered to," Mohammadreza Zaeri said.
"If someone were to be contaminated by (a cleric's) negligence, then (this cleric) would certainly be religiously responsible," Zaeri, who writes for a religious monthly,said on the messaging service Telegram.
Al Bawaba, Egyptians Questioning their Governments' Coronavirus Containment Measures Citing a 2014 TV Show "Sparking even more controversy, Egyptian online commentators shared an opening scene from a 2014 show called "The Last Ship" to express their mistrust of the current measures taken by the government to tackle the coronavirus outbreak."
Stepfeed, In Egypt, reporting fake cases of COVID-19 is a sort of prank or penalty "Reporting people for displaying the current coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms seems to be the new not-so-funny way some people are choosing to get back at others after arguments."
Rudaw, Coronavirus fatwa: Friday prayers will not be suspended in Kurdistan Region Another fatwa relating to Covid-19: "The Fatwa Council, the Kurdistan Region’s highest religious authority, does not believe the outbreak is serious enough at this stage to warrant cancelling Friday prayers.
"“According to Sharia [Islamic law], Friday sermons at this stage cannot be suspended, except in places where the disease has certainly spread and become an epidemic,” the Fatwa Council said in a statement.
"It did recommend some precautionary measures, however.
"“We are calling on clerics to shorten their Friday sermons and to help keep mosques clean and to advise people to take their ablutions at home.”"
Sensible advice on mosques and ablutions, although I'm not sure how shorter sermons will help in this regard.
And additionally: "The Kurdistan Region’s Fatwa Council also said it would bestow “the rank of martyrdom” upon anyone who dies after contracting COVID-19. "

Covid-19 Qom shrine licking latest: Rozina Sini & Armen Shahbazian, BBC News, Trending, Coronavirus: Iran holy-shrine-lickers face prison, 3 Mar 2020
"MP Hasan Nowrozi said: "Those doing such unconventional acts are publishing fake and superstitious news against the officials in the country.
""Such people would face two months to two years [in] jail and up to 74 lashes as punishment.""
The issue of proportionality is significant here in terms of the representation of this practice:

Jon Gambrell, Associated Press, Report: 23 cases of new virus among Iranian MPs "The death of Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi on Monday makes him the highest-ranking official within Iran’s leadership to be killed by the virus. State media referred to him as a confidant of Khamenei."
Khaleej Times, Covid-19: Muslims with respiratory issues urged to stay home for prayers, says UAE Sharia council, 2 March 2020 "Muslims suffering from respiratory or immunity issues are urged to stay home for prayers amid the global Covid-19 epidemic, according to a fatwa issued by the UAE Sharia Ifta Council on Tuesday. They do not need to attend congregational prayers, Friday sermon or Eid prayers, it added."
Stepfeed, Kuwaiti man tried to murder his family for reporting his COVID-19 symptoms [article also updates on Middle East Covid-19 situation] "On Twitter, some Kuwaitis have been criticizing those who have arrived back home from countries with confirmed cases of the virus yet are refusing to enter quarantines. Last week, videos capturing passengers from Iran arguing with medical personnel over the need to be quarantined sparked outrage all over the nation."
MEMRI, Iraqi Islamic Scholar Hadi Al-Modarresi, Prior to Being Infected with Coronavirus: The Virus Is a Divine Punishment against the Chinese
MUIS Singapore, Advisory on Managing the COVID- 19 Situation "If you go to the mosque, please take additional steps to minimise any risk of infection. The virus may remain on carpet surfaces if used by a congregant who is infected. This occurrence is highly likely if the area has not been properly disinfected and cleansed. As such, we encourage the use of personal clean mat to cover the prostration area. Female congregants are also advised to bring your own personal prayer clothing."
Tempo, Imbauan Komisi Fatwa MUI untuk Antisipasi Wabah Virus Corona Secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council Fatwa Commission Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh comments on Covid-19, urging 'healthy lifestyle'.
About Islam, Coronavirus: British Muslim Group Issues Advise for Mosques, Madrasahs based on MCB, Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for mosques/madrassas and Umrah Pilgrims

Pilgrimage and travel to Qom is having an impact here: "Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates — even one in Canada — have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut."
Guardian, Saudi Arabia bans pilgrimages to holy sites "The decision also affected travel to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina. Authorities also suspended entry to the kingdom to those with tourist visas from nations affected by the new virus."

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