Muslims appeal for Eid prayer concession
Eid, which marks the end of Ramadaan, will either be celebrated at the weekend or on Monday.
In a letter by the secretary-general of the KZN council, Moulana Rafiek Mohamed, the organisation appealed to the government “with a bleeding heart” to allow the Muslim community a concession on the day of Eid to hold a post-sunrise prayer.
“It has been the most painful Ramadaan we have experienced in our lives. Normally, during Ramadaan much more time is dedicated to prayer in the mosque than other times of the year. We were, with anguish and distress, forced to forego this in the interest of the greater good of the nation,” Mohamed said.
He said Eid was normally marked by a special mass prayer held shortly after sunrise. The prayer is conducted at an open-air venue and lasts for no more than 30 minutes.
“We do understand that in the present circumstances, special precautionary measures will be required. Hence any concession will evidently be subject to strict compliance with all reasonable safety measures prescribed by the department,” he said in his letter.
Mohamed said even though Eid was a few days away, they were happy to engage Ramaphosa to map out how the mass prayer could take place without breaking the Covid-19 regulations or compromising the health and safety of those participating.
Mohamed cited the Constitution that obliges the government to be responsive to the needs of citizens.
He urged Ramaphosa, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, not to take a “straitjacket” approach but to be sensitive to the requisites of the various communities.
He said South Africans had made huge sacrifices in assisting to appropriately prepare for the inevitable effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, “the contract between the government and its people is a two-way street”.
“Granting the concession, we believe, will go a far way in demonstrating that the government does take the people into its confidence, and is not indifferent to their struggles and needs,” Mohamed said.
He added that the Muslim community were aggrieved and saddened that they were permitted to visit a hardware store but were unable to attend mosque.
Mohamed said that as practising Muslims, they attended mosque five times for prayer at various intervals during the day and night.
He said the mosque was an indispensable part of Muslim identity, “which makes up the fibre and sinews of who we are as spiritual beings”, and without attending mosque, they felt like fish out of water.
“You will, with the greatest of respect, not be able to fully fathom the degree of sacrifice that the Muslim community has had to endure since the onset of the lockdown,” Mohamed wrote.
While the Presidency did not comment on Mohamed’s letter, Ramaphosa did consult a broad range of faith leaders on Wednesday evening.
In a statement from the Presidency, spokesperson Khusela Diko said the meeting was held to engage on the government’s preparations for a differentiated approach across the country to the further reopening of the economy.
“The president held discussions in a virtual meeting where the leadership of the South African Catholic Bishops Conference, the SA Council of Churches, the National Interfaith Council of South Africa, the Muslim Judicial Council, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, African Independent Churches, charismatic/pentecostal churches, African traditional faiths, the National Religious Leaders Council and the Southern African Interfaith Council were invited.
“The meeting was held amid the government’s planning, in partnership with civil society, for the progression of large parts of the country to alert-level 3 of the national lockdown that would enable further easing of economic activity and personal movement,” Diko said.
Under lockdown level 4, religious gatherings are not permitted to take place.