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Coronavirus: BBC begins broadcasting weekly Islamic sermons as mosques remain shut

14 local radio stations are broadcasting Islamic reflections and prayers as places of worship stay closed amid Covid-19
Impact of closure of Britain's mosques will be even more significant during holy month of Ramadan (AFP)

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has begun airing Islamic reflections and prayers on 14 local radio stations as mosques remain shut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to local media reports, every Friday at 5:50am, a different imam will lead the broadcast, reciting a verse from the Quran or a saying from the Prophet Muhammad, then translate it and talk about its relevance, followed by a minute of prayer.

"Local radio is all about connecting communities, and we hope these weekly reflections will go some way to helping Muslims feel a sense of community while they are isolating," said Chris Burns, the head of BBC Local Radio.

The British government ordered all places of worship closed on 23 March as part of its measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Days before the announcement, more than 375 mosques and prayer facilities suspended congregational activities, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

"Safeguarding all of our communities is paramount, and it's reassuring so many mosques and prayer facilities have heeded this advice in trying their best to minimise the spread of the coronavirus," Harun Khan, secretary general of the MCB, said last month.

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Many of Britain's mosques hold thousands of worshippers at a time, including the East London Mosque, which has capacity for 7,000, London Central Mosque with more than 5,000 and Birmingham Central Mosque, which regularly hosts 2,500 worshippers or more for weekly Friday prayer services.

Several mosques and Muslim communities have tried fill the void of the closure by using virtual means to engage in spiritual practices, though the lack of physical connection has been hard to replace.

Still, the impact of the closure will be even more impactful during the holy month of Ramadan, which is set to begin in the third week of April.

Harry Farley, a journalist with BBC Radio 4, responded to criticism of the announcement by pointing out that the BBC already broadcasts Christian services every Sunday.

"And to those complaining about/questioning this, just a reminder that a Christian service is broadcast each Sunday at 8am on all 39 BBC local radio stations," he tweeted.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK increased to 38,168 on Friday, with the death toll reaching 3,605.

In the country's fight to combat the virus, Muslim doctors and healthcare professionals have been among the first to die on the front lines. 

Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old nurse, became the latest Muslim fatality in the UK, joining five others who have lost their lives in the fight against the disease.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.