A Muslim cleric in France has rejected viral claims Ramadan will be 'postponed' in some European countries and urged worshippers to not share reports suggesting so.
Rumours have spread across the Moroccan community in Belgium that Ramadan could be 'cancelled' or pushed back because of the coronavirus. Comments by Mohammed Chatar, a well-known presenter, were blamed for the misinformation after he said authorities could be forced to make the move to protect weakened immune systems.
Local media said Mr Chatar's claims spread like "wildfire" via social media and messaging services.
Abdelmoniam Boussenna, an imam at a mosque in Roubaix on the France-Belgium border, responded and asked: "What is this mysterious authority which has the capacity to cancel or postpone the fourth pillar of Islam?"
Mr Boussenna explained no medical specialist had said fasting could see the virus spread faster.
“If the doctors or the experts had explained to us that fasting favours the development of the virus, we would of course have assumed our responsibilities because the preservation of life comes first," he said.
Ramadan is expected to begin later this week, likely on April 24.
Belgium's Muslim Executive has set out an array of guidelines to ensure worshippers stay safe. These include mosques remaining closed and people being asked not to wait until the end of the day to buy food.
“Inviting loved ones, friends and neighbours into your home is unfortunately prohibited due to social distancing obligations,” the executive said. “Gatherings of people which sometimes form after meals, are no longer allowed. Moreover, those faithful who stay awake for part of the night must be careful to maintain peace in their neighbourhood.”
Workers engaged in frontline efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus are also exempted from fasting given the stresses they are under.
“Let us devote ourselves to prayer, reading and learning about our beautiful religion. Let us remain open to dialogue and mutual aid with people who have other religious and philosophical convictions, even if we unfortunately do not have the chance to share with them our breaking fast meals this year," the Belgian Muslim Executive said.