ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham speaks to Imam Qari Asim
A senior British imam has urged the country to unite and help their communities through the coronavirus pandemic.
Imam Qari Asim, who is based in Leeds, said the Covid-19 outbreak is "very challenging emotionally" ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, which starts next week.
Ramadan sees Muslims across the world fast during daylight hours, which means abstaining from food and drink, as part of a period of self-reflection and devotion for their religion.
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It is typically a time where Muslims come together and pray, but the virus means mosques in the UK are closed in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.
Imam Asim told ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham he has been reaching out to people within the community in order to help them feel a sense of normality through such a difficult period.
He said: "The lockdown has been extremely challenging because we as human beings, like social interaction and particular, I used to meet hundreds of people in my mosque on a weekly basis."
Imam Asim on the 'painful' decision to close mosques
He added: "The physical presence isn't there. So we like other faith communities have had to come up with innovative and dynamic ways of connecting with people.
"So on a weekly basis, I'm video calling people, ringing people, and ensuring that the spiritual and religious guidance that is required by the community is being provided, although in a very different way.
"So lockdown, in essence, has enabled us to reconfigure the concept of the community. It is no longer in a place of worship, rather it is a virtual community that has emerged due to coronavirus lockdown."
Imam Asim, who also works as an adviser to the government on Islamophobia, dispelled false rumours spread online about some mosques being open throughout the lockdown period.
Imam Asim on the 'malicious rumours' spread on social media
He believes certain people within the community were using spreading the allegations to spread division and fear among Britons.
He said: "It's really sad to see that even during such times of crisis, there are some people who are spreading malicious rumours and fake news on social media to say that actually some mosques are still open.
"I think those people intend to divide our communities, and our message is clear: that anti-Muslim hatred, or hatred of any community should not divide us and this should be a time of people coming together, to fight one single cause, that is to defeat Covid 19."
Imam Asim praised the efforts of NHS staff for their efforts during the pandemic and said it was "extremely sad" that people from within the BAME community appeared to be among the hardest hit.
"Now we need to dig deeper into factors which have led to more deaths happening in the Muslim community," he said.
"Some of those reasons would include inter-generational households, cultural aspects, socio-economic factors as well as the close-knit communities. And also on the NHS that we see that they have the first five doctors who lost their lives were from the Muslim community.
"It also goes to show that they are lots of Muslims working in the NHS and in the emergency sector and as a result we are seeing more and more Muslims lives being lost. And we really appreciate it the contribution that is being made by all communities to ensure that we are all in it together."
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