Germany's Muslims should avoid large Ramadan gatherings as 'religious service'

Imam Benjamin Idriz urges worshippers to help contain Covid-19

BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 24: Muslims wearing protective masks and maintaining the social distancing as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Mevlana mosque in Berlin, Germany on May 24, 2020. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Saving lives by avoiding large gatherings during Ramadan should be seen as an act of “religious service” for Muslims, an imam in Germany said.

Benjamin Idriz urged worshippers to do their part to rein in the third wave of Covid-19 which has forced Germany's Muslims to observe Ramadan under severe social restrictions for a second year running.

Mosques are allowed to open with social distancing rules, but Mr Idriz said at an event organised by the Alhambra Society that Muslims should go without collective evening prayers in order to prevent infections.

“Saving the lives of others, that should be our focus,” he said. “I said last Friday in my sermon – that is a religious service.”

Mr Idriz, an imam in Penzberg near Munich, quoted from the Quran to say that “whoever saves the life of one human being, it shall be as if he had saved the whole of humankind”.

“If we save one person, if we protect one person from illness, then we have protected all of humanity, so to speak,” Mr Idriz said.

“This year, when as a country and a society we are facing this third wave of the pandemic, we will make our contribution.

“If the churches went without services even over Easter, then we too should show solidarity with the majority.”

Mr Idriz said he was telling worshippers to look at the positives, for example by noting that mosques were completely closed during Ramadan last year but partially open this time.

The absence of collective prayer in the mosques would allow for a more “intimate” type of prayer among families at home, he said.

Germany is home to around 4.5 million Muslims, who make up about 5.5 per cent of the country’s population.

Last month, the head of Germany's top diseases institute said that Muslims made up more than half of intensive care patients in Germany.

The head of a German lung hospital reportedly said on the same conference call that the perils of Covid-19 were not getting through to communities with migrant populations.

But Mr Idriz said his fellow imams took the health risks of the pandemic seriously and had urged their communities to do the same.

“There are many imams that I know personally who have had this illness, sometimes with serious effects,” he said.

Germany's infection rates have been rising since mid-February in a third wave blamed on the coronavirus variant first detected in the UK.

Efforts by Chancellor Angela Merkel to impose tough nationwide measures were met with opposition from regional leaders, who have the final word on implementing restrictions.

On Monday, Germany surpassed the milestone of 3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19. There have been 78,452 deaths.