Coronavirus: British Muslims call out 'double standard' over government Eid warnings
Adverts posted by the UK government online urging British Muslims to stay home and observe the religious festival of Eid at home have been criticised as a display of “double standards” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
With over 35,000 deaths recorded from the coronavirus in the UK and nearly 250,000 confirmed cases, residents of the country have been urged to remain home - despite mixed messaging from the government on which outings are permitted and encouragement to return to work for those who can.
However, British Muslims have felt particularly targeted during the lockdown and have denounced their singling out by the government as “hypocritical”, given that the same type of messaging was not used to dissuade street parties organised for Victory in Europe (VE) Day earlier this month marking the end of World War II in Europe.
A news item from the BBC was blasted after social media users highlighted how the same news channel had provided live coverage of the street celebrations despite them occurring before the government began easing the lockdown.
“I’ve had enough of these double standards,” one user tweeted. “We were accused of the same before Ramadan, yet our masjids (mosques) remain closed and we pray at home. The same goes for Eid.”
“Targeting a particular group to imply lockdown standards won’t be followed,” another wrote. "It’s your reporting that incites prejudice."
Others resorted to humour to denounce the Islamophobic messaging.
Before the holy month of Ramadan began, during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, British Muslims were targeted by accusations that their communal gatherings would put British citizens at risk.
At the start of Ramadan, Health Secretary Matt Hancock extended his thanks to the Muslim community for suspending congregational worship and abiding by the lockdown.
A number of Muslim doctors and health care staff working for the UK's National Health Service (NHS) have died on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic. Meanwhile, Muslim organisations have organised distributions of protective gear for health workers and have gathered donations for vulnerable communities - particularly during Ramadan, a time when Muslims are encouraged to perform acts of charity.
Yet the government messaging surrounding Eid encouraged a number of social media users to express Islamophobic sentiments.
"They won't listen, I distance myself from the Muslims anyway," one Twitter user wrote. "Have your party and catch the virus, will help thin the numbers," another said.
The Muslim Council of Britain has urged people to celebrate the holiday marking the end of Ramadan virtually.
“Muslims have shown great resolve throughout Ramadan and this pandemic, adapting to a different way of life and making the best out of the month by attending virtual iftars with friends and family, and live streaming religious services to their homes,” the council said in a press release.
“Whilst Eid away from the mosques and from our loved ones is unprecedented and will be a source of great sadness in communities across the country, Muslim communities will adapt and find the best way to still celebrate this holy day whilst aligning to the latest guidance.”
A number of well-known British Muslims have also lent their support to the #Eidathome online campaign to encourage Muslims to stay at home and to celebrate safely.
Those featured in the independent initiative included TV chef Nadiya Hussain, journalist Rageh Omaar and former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq , who urged Muslims "to put others first" and "to work together to fight the cononavirus pandemic by ensuring we spend Eid with our immediate families at home".
Companies banking on Muslims staying at home for Eid have already created marketing initiatives to help Muslims celebrate.
Food delivery company Deliveroo announced it would be working with hundreds of restaurants across the UK to offer special Eid hampers and Iftar bundles to Muslim households that were celebrating the religious holiday.
Britain’s Muslims are amongst the communities hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, and some have pointed to certain factors such as living with larger families and working in certain sectors more exposed to carriers as explaining the disproportionate rate of infection.