UK Muslims condemn lockdown announcement

LONDON (Agencies): Community leaders on Friday, branded the decision to lock down the north-west of England at the start of Eid ‘an appalling abuse of power’ and accused Boris Johnson’s Government of having ‘no regard for British Muslims’.

Mohammed Shafiq from the Ramadhan Foundation said the decision to ban 4.5million people mixing for at least a week will ruin plans for thousands celebrating the religious festival in Manchester, east Lancashire and West Yorkshire until Monday night.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been forced to deny he had targeted Eid when announcing the Covid-19 restrictions as the religious holiday was about to start – but British Muslims slammed his announcement as ‘shockingly short notice’.

Shafiq said: ‘Already by the time the Government announced that on Twitter, families had already travelled to their loved ones’ homes and people have already started their Eid preparations. To make that decision on social media, with no regard for British Muslims is an appalling abuse of its power and shows how disconnected they are from wider society. I condemn the announcement and I hope they have learned a big lesson from this’.

The Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary general, Harun Khan, condemned the Government for making the announcement at ‘shockingly short notice’. He said: ‘With the first day of Eid being today, for Muslims in the affected areas it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself’.

Labour Bolton MP, Yasmin Qureshi, said today: ‘For the Government to make a major public health announcement on the eve of Eid Al Adha (on Twitter) in haste, without clarity or guidance is beyond disruptive, it’s irresponsible’.

But today a Tory with a Parliamentary constituency on the edge of the lockdown zone accused ‘BAME communities of not taking this seriously enough’ as coronavirus cases have been rising in towns with large Muslim and minority populations such as Blackburn, Rochdale and Bradford.

Criag Whittaker, MP for the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, told LBC: ‘If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases, the vast majority – but not by any stretch of the imagination all areas – it is the BAME communities.

‘We have areas of high multiple occupancy – when you have multiple families living in one household. It doesn’t specifically have to be in the Asian community, but that is the largest proportion. Look at the areas. You’ve got Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. Bradford and Kirklees have two of the largest populations in West Yorkshire’.

When asked he was referring to the immigrant population, he said: ‘Immigrant and Asian population.’

Asked if he agreed with comments by a Tory MP in one of the impacted areas claiming that the BAME community was not taking the situation seriously enough, Boris Johnson said at today’s press conference: ‘On your first point about how the… are certain communities responding enough to the guidance – well, I think it’s up to all of us in Government to make sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everybody across the country, and to make sure that everybody is complying with the guidance.’

The Prime Minister said: ‘I want to thank all the community leaders, I want to thank everybody, the mosques, the imams who have worked hard with us to get messages across.

‘All faith leaders and other community leaders getting that message across throughout society. But, ultimately it’s up everybody. It’s up to the whole country to get this right and do it together.’

Boris announced he is ‘squeezing the brake pedal’ on easing the coronavirus lockdown and announced the compulsory wearing of face masks is being extended after the rate of infection doubled during July.

Johnson said coronavirus cases have started to ‘creep up’ – with the Office for National Statistics estimating there are now 4,200 new infections every day, up from 2,000 per day at the end of June – and as a result the Government had no choice but to delay the further reopening of the economy.

He said the scheduled August 1 return of casinos, bowling alleys and close contact services like beauticians has now been pushed back to August 15 ‘at the earliest’.

Loosening rules to allow wedding receptions of up to 30 people and a pilot scheme of bringing crowds back to sports venues have also been delayed.

The mandatory wearing of face coverings will be extended in England to include galleries, cinemas and places of worship while there will also now be a ‘greater police presence’ to ensure people wear masks and comply with social distancing.

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