Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has appealed to Muslims in the country to perform Friday prayers at home, instead of the mosque, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
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“Muslim brothers, perform your prayers at home. And brothers and sisters of other religions, do your prayers at homes,” she said in a late night address to the nation on Wednesday.
She urged citizens to avoid crowded places and stay at home to avert the spread of the virus which has so far claimed five lives in Bangladesh and infected 39 others.
Bangladesh on Tuesday imposed complete lockdown and suspended inter-city travel.
While the country has also deployed the army to ensure the measures, it has yet to make a formal announcement on congregation at mosques, a move that could draw strong emotions in the Muslim-majority nation of 165 million population.
Tens of thousands attend Friday prayers in Bangladesh, often forming neat rows on the streets outside due to lack of space inside the mosques.
Despite being an integral part of Muslim faith, these large crowds at mosques serve as the ideal spot for the highly contagious coronavirus to multiply.
“We never imagined that we will not be able to attend Friday prayers at the mosque,” said Waliur Rahman, a resident of the capital Dhaka.
Many clerics have also shown aversion to the possible calling off of Friday prayers.
“People can use face masks and other protective gear,” said a cleric, Khalilur Rehman Madani.
Meanwhile, the country’s top religious body Islamic Foundation will convene to discuss the issue at hand.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 175 countries and territories sounding global alarm.
Across the world, more than 21,000 people have died of the virus, according to U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, causing government’s to take extreme measures.