If this were a Ramadan lived under normal circumstances, the Lisbon Mosque would be full on the night of Thursday, 23rd April. But because of the coronavirus pandemic that is shaking the world, mosques around the world will be closed, and Muslims are invited to say prayers and have iftar at home. The same is true in Portugal, where the Lisbon Mosque was closed by the Islamic community in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Islamic community in Portugal numbers only around 50,000 people (out of a total population of 10 million), so importance of sharing this observance is important. ‘Here we value the “Ramadan conviviality”, if the expression exists’, sums up Sheikh David Munir, Imam of Lisbon’s Mosque. This year, however, there will be none of that. Just as Catholics attended Easter Sunday mass from a distance, so the prayers recited by Muslims throughout the day will be broadcast online.
According to Portugal’s 2011 census, which is the most reliable source of data on religious identity in the country, 69% of Muslims in Portugal lived in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon and among these, 42% had Portuguese citizenship, 22% were Guinea-Bissauans, 6% were Pakistanis and 3% were Bangladeshis.
As the country slowly reopens, Muslims in Portugal will also want to return to their mosque. The mosque authorities guarantee that masks, protective eyewear and disinfectants will be provided to all who visit. Safety guidelines will be transmitted and orders from health authorities respected, Sheikh Munir assures. ‘But, with all these limitations, I think that many will continue to choose to pray at home’, he admits.
At the beginning of the holy month for Muslims, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa had a Skype call with the leader of the Islamic community in Portugal, Abdul Vakil, similar to the meeting he had with Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, reassuring that the rules of social distancing will be respected. António Costa added, ‘I have witnessed the commitment of the Islamic community in this regard. I want to address a greeting to all Muslims and appreciate the way they have actively contributed to the control of the COVID-19 pandemic’.
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