Durrani, 52, is among thousands of devout Muslims who mocked a Pakistani government order issued late last month that banned worshipers of five or more people from blocking the spread coronavirus. So far the disease has infected more than 5,300 people and killed 93 in the world’s second most populous Muslim country.
“Our prayer leader told us that the virus cannot infect us like Westerners,” Durrani told Reuters. “He said we wash our hands and wash our faces five times a day before we pray, and unbelievers do not, so we don’t need to worry. God is with us.”
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The Islamic lobby has a big influence in Pakistan, a country with more than 200 million people. Religious parties have not been successful in electoral politics, but they are able to prepare large, often violent, crowds on matters relating to religion, such as in supporting the strict blasphemy laws in the country.
“Religion and prayer are emotional problems for many people in Pakistan, and the government must be sensitive to that,” Mirza Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to the Prime Minister Imran Khan, told Reuters.
More than 60% of cases of the corona virus in Pakistan so far have been attributed to Muslims returning from pilgrimages in the Middle East and followers Tablighi Jamaat, an orthodox da’wah group.
But worries are a big surge that comes from congregational prayers that are held the mosque, especially on Fridays, the Sabbath of Islam. The number of those attending the prayer tends to increase with the start of the holy month of Ramadan in two weeks, and the authorities struggle to overcome it.
While the Islamic Ideology Council, a body that advises the government on religious matters, has called on clerics and communities to cooperate with government measures, some imams and local leaders oppose the ban.
A prominent leader of a religious party told a crowd of hundreds of people who gathered for a funeral last week that government orders to limit the hearing were unacceptable.
“If you do this, we will be forced to think that the mosque is deserted by American instructions,” Mufti Kafayatullah told the crowd. “We are ready to give our lives, but not ready to leave our mosque.”
In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, police were attacked for two consecutive weeks when they tried to stop praying at a mosque last Friday. A female police officer was injured in the clash, and the week before, police opened fire in the air to quell the angry mob.
In other cities, police apparently turned a blind eye to several mosque meetings.
Last Friday, one of the main Twitter trends in Pakistan was “Muslims, mosques call you”.
In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds of people gathered on Friday without a hitch in one of the largest mosques in the city, which is located just two miles (three km) from the center of Pakistani government, including the parliament and the prime minister’s secretariat.
On March 27, authorities filed 88 cases against the administration of the mosque in Karachi and arrested 38 people for opposing restrictions on worshipers on Friday, but the charges were dropped a day later, and people were released.
“I think that is partly calming and partly the fact that Pakistan’s government and politics are permanently locked into an electoral framework where they do not want to lose the support of the religious elite and the religious proletariat,” Pakistani defense writer and analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters. .
Akbar, the prime minister’s special assistant, said most mosques work closely with the government.
But he added: “This is a sensitive issue, we don’t want to force it to use a stick. And even if we want to, there aren’t enough sticks to apply it throughout Pakistan.”
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