‘Forgotten’ Members of North Wales’ Muslim Community ‘Left Behind’ by Welsh Government Pilot
Members of the North Wales Muslim community fear being overlooked as Covid rules have limited public prayer to South Wales.
Many North Wales worshipers have left with no choice but to stay at home for the second time since the start of the pandemic.
Due to social distancing measures, women and children were not allowed to visit mosques in North Wales to pray for Eid-Al-Fitr, the festival that marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan in May.
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Some have questioned why Muslims in North Wales were being urged to stay at home to celebrate the end of Ramadan, when mosques were open to everyone in South Wales.
Leena Sarah Farhat, who had hoped to attend Wrexham Mosque, said: “Without mosques outside Cardiff offering prayers to women, women like me in rural Wales had no option for Eid.
“This is the second Eid we have in a pandemic and many of us feel isolated.”
An outdoor Eid prayer was held at Cardiff Castle as part of a Welsh government pilot program, which saw around 500 people gather to worship together at the outdoor event.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We worked closely with event planners and the Muslim Council of Wales to include ‘Eid in the Castle’ in our initial event pilot program which included a range of different venues and types of events.
“It was selected to test how the sector adapts to the updated guidelines and to test how events can operate safely and was the only worship event, of any religious tradition, included in the program.”
Speaking about this test event, Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed of the Muslim Council of Wales said: “This event marks the light at the end of the tunnel and the opportunity to do things again together and in community.
“We are very happy to be a part of the pilot event and appreciate the fact that the Welsh government has recognized Islam as a Welsh religion and an important part of our civic life.”
But concerned about the lack of arrangements for Muslims in the north, Leena said: “I think the rural communities have been left behind in the making of the rules and it has been assumed that most of the Muslims are in Cardiff, which is not the case at all. “
“If councils and politicians cared, we could have had smaller Covid-compliant morning meetings.
“What’s stopping Wrexham City Council from holding a social distancing group prayer in one of the parks? “
A spokesperson for Wrexham Borough Council said: ‘During Ramadan, Wales was subject to Covid-19 restrictions, which included those relating to outdoor gatherings. The Cardiff event was an exception hosted by the Welsh government, along with other events, as a pilot event. “
Shakila Mohammed, a resident of Bangor, said that due to social distancing restrictions, women were not allowed to pray in the city’s mosque this year.
“I would have loved to have an outdoor prayer like they did in Cardiff,” she said.
“My favorite part of Eid is praying with others, personally I love this closeness with other sisters in a peaceful environment.”
Sohaib Sohail, who attends Rhyl Mosque, said: “I think the mosque was put in a difficult situation because it was the first Eid that the mosque was allowed to open during the pandemic.
“With restrictions, we weren’t able to greet and kiss each other in the mosque like the other years, so it seemed a bit strange to us, but that was to be expected.”
“I don’t know why they wouldn’t have an event in North Wales when they do in other parts of Wales.
“I’m sure the mosque would have been open to the idea and I think it would have been a good solution to include everyone.”
In a tweet in May, Prime Minister Mark Drakeford acknowledged that Ramadan must have been celebrated differently this year again due to the pandemic.