03/23/2020, 17.52
ISLAM – FRANCE
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French Muslim leader: Coronavirus is a chance for solidarity, not ‘punishment’

by Hocine Drouiche (*)

The Great Mosque of Paris is shut. All French mosques are urged to close. The Muslim Brotherhood is against this. Deemed a "punishment" against unbelievers, the outbreak is now a "test" to purify Muslims. Solidarity is growing irrespective of race, religion and nationality. This is an opportunity to pray for all humanity. The chairman of the French Board of Imams speaks out.

Parigi (AsiaNews) – French Muslims are experiencing the coronavirus crisis amid fear, dreading the loss of family members. Mosques and other places of worship have closed.

In France, the Grand Great Mosque of Paris and its new rector, Chems Eddine Hafiz, did not wait to set an example for the other 4,000 mosques and places of worship in France. He took the initiative and had the courage to call on all Muslims in France to pray at home to avoid the spread of the virus, citing Qurʼānic verses and prophetic hadiths in his press release. In the latter, he calls on Muslims to be careful and supportive along with their fellow citizens to fight this virus which is threatening the lives of all citizens.

As Verse 195, Sura 2 says, “do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction”.

Criticism by the Muslim Brotherhood

Some imams close to the Muslim Brotherhood have criticised the rector’s decision to cancel prayers and close mosques because the virus had not yet spread widely. Events have proven the correctness of the rector’s decision to listen to President Emmanuel Macron from the start of the crisis.

Most imams see this virus as a divine test for all humanity, including Muslims, to return to the path of righteousness.

In Islam where ablutions are compulsory for the five daily prayers, cleanliness must already be present in individuals and mosques.

Imams and mosque officials recommend washing and changing prayer rugs, leaving the doors of mosques open so as not to touch the knob, asking the faithful to bring their own rugs to minimise the risk of this contagious virus.

“Punishment” against the disbelievers

Despite this, several mosques need more cleaning and respect for the rules, especially since some believers think that the virus was only a lie invented by capitalists to sell their inventories.

Some Muslim extremists got into the act too. When the virus hit China, they went on telling Muslims that the coronavirus is only a punishment against the disbelieving Chinese who transgress the law. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman decided to close Makkah and Madinah to Muslim pilgrims, these extremists deemed the virus as a way to purify Muslims and remind them of their religion.

Solidarity

Once again, several imams known for their humane attitudes took this opportunity to advocate humanity and solidarity between states and peoples in order to defeat this dangerous virus.

Some Muslim businessmen, such as the French-Syrian Mohamed Izzet Khettab, have donated millions of euros to help the victims of this unprecedented epidemic. Several restaurants in Marseille, Paris and Lyon have been feeding the needy for free.

Saudi Ambassador Saad al-Nefaie stepped up his actions to answer the questions of French Muslims who registered for the ʿUmrah and the Hajj. When the crisis started, the Saudi government asked its embassy in Paris to set up a crisis cell so as not to endanger the lives of pilgrims. The crown prince personally follows daily the file from the Saudi capital, especially since France’s Muslim community sends the largest contingent of pilgrims to Makkah each year.

We have dedicated a special daily prayer against the coronavirus for the whole human family without any consideration for racial or religious differences. We pray and think about each victim and each family affected by this serious pandemic. In doing so, we totally reject the arguments of certain mental patients who believe that the Muslim dead are martyrs who will go to heaven and the other victims will go to hell.

Muslims, citizens of Europe

If such actions did not please extremists, the dangerousness of the virus as well as mosque shutdowns still offered them a platform to criticise and threaten those who advocate a humane and tolerant Islam, especially at this very difficult time for humanity.

Like their fellow citizens, Muslims in France respect the government directives hoping to see the total eradication of this invisible enemy which does us so much harm but which also brings us closer together in the face of death and disease.

In several Arab countries, some people have refused the return of European Muslims to their countries of origin, believing that they represent a serious health danger whilst European countries treat them as full citizens.

Once again, the coronavirus crisis shows European Muslims that their countries of origin are no longer their natural home since there they are seen as a mobile danger more than anything else.

A famous imam in France issued a Fatwa (religious opinion) that forbids European Muslims from fleeing Europe because of the coronavirus. It tells them instead to show solidarity to their fellow European citizens, to live together or die together. He is totally right!

In France, the coronavirus has been able to erase all racial, nationalist and religious differences. Extremists can join the coronavirus if they wish. They have no place amid this crisis because we live at a time of exceptional solidarity, one that kills all viruses, including the virus of religious and racial hatred that all of us must fight without mercy.

* Chairman of the French Board of Imams (Conseil des imams de France)

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