UK: ‘Stay at home for Eid’ messages slammed as patronising

Muslims, critics decry double standard as there were fewer warnings against gathering for events such as VE Day parties.

UK Muslim
A Muslim woman walks past balloons outside London's National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues [File: Simon Dawson/Reuters]

As Eid approaches, Muslims in the United Kingdom are being bombarded with messages to celebrate at home and observe social distancing measures to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus. 

The stream of advice from government, celebrities, and local health and law enforcement officials has been described by some as patronising, as many noticed a double standard.

Social media users expressed their disappointment, saying that there were fewer warnings regarding other recent celebrations such as the VE Day anniversary.

Some pointed to a BBC article highlighting the need to stay at home.

“So the BBC has now interviewed Muslim celebrities ‘urging us to stay home for Eid’ yet I still have not seen any official condemnation of the busy beaches this week or the celebration of VE Day. Why are we being treated differently?” tweeted Hasan Patel, a young political activist from east London.

Twitter user @chibiandchill wrote: “I dont see any point or purpose of this article when Muslims have ALREADY stopped communal activities. Makes it seem Muslims are going to risk it for Eid. I dont recall this type of ** for VE day oh wait papers and MPs were cheering on the conga and street party posters.”

Others noticed a post on Facebook that was sponsored by the UK government with the text: “Coronavirus. Celebrate Eid at home and control the virus”, questioning whether it had invested in similar campaigns for VE Day.

There are an estimated 3.4 million Muslims in the UK. 

Members of the religious minority have been lauded during the pandemic for their charity effortsand as many work on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

On Friday, the National Health Service (NHS) sent out SMS text messages to Britons reading: “Eid Mubarak to all our patients! If you are celebrating this weekend, remember to stay home and follow social distancing. This will stop the spread of coronavirus and protect the most vulnerable.”

The first four doctors to die of coronavirus at the beginning of the epidemic – Alfa Sa’adu; Amged el-Hawrani; Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi – were all Muslim and had ancestry in regions including Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Muslims have stopped worshipping in congregations, and sacrificed gatherings and social events during Ramadan, a month that usually brings people together.

Mosques have closed, sermons have gone online and people have either been observing the month of fasting individually or only with the close family members they live with.

Meanwhile, the UK is currently enjoying warmer weather and is entering a bank holiday weekend, which has seen thousands abandon social distancing measures and flock to the country’s many beaches.

Some said that there has been more messaging trying to stop people gathering for Eid, than urging people against crowding spaces and therefore risking further coronavirus outbreaks.

Twitter user @grumpybengali wrote: “Like so many others, I observe social distancing. When the Govt was still dragging its feet & pursuing herd immunity. I pulled my kids out of school & go out once a week to buy groceries. My local mosques are closed. My fellow Muslims aren’t ignoring the advice.

“We will stay at home on Eid. But the British media will still vilify us Muslims. Publishing articles inferring that we are or likely to go against the advice of health officials. They use images of Muslims whilst writing articles on Covid19. Meanwhile 1000s go to the beach .”

The UK is Europe’s worst and the world’s second most affected country in terms of deaths from COVID-19, behind the United States.

More than 36,000 people have died from coronavirus in the UK, and at least 252,000 have been infected, according to official figures. The actual toll is widely understood to be higher.

Source: Al Jazeera