Muslim faithful still able to pray at northeast Calgary mosque for now
Participants at a northeast Calgary mosque are being allowed to pray in groups of 40 people.
CALGARY -- A mosque in northeast Calgary has opted to keep its doors open despite many having closed theirs temporarily amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Imam Syed Soharwardy says they’ve taken every measure to ensure their worshippers are safe when they come to pray.
“We do not want community spread at our mosque. We don’t want community spread because of any other location and that’s why we have to be very sensitive and we have to be very conscious,” said Soharwardy, who leads prayer sessions.
Soharwardy says they are following government rules and limited the amount of people inside the mosque to 40.
Worshippers are also asked to sanitize their hands before entering.
They may bring their own prayer mats, however, a sheet has been rolled during prayers and replaced in between sessions. Those who come to pray are asked to spread out on the carpet, which Soharwardy says, is sanitized frequently.
However, there are some exceptions.
“Those who are vulnerable, those who are elderly, those who are sick, women and children," he says. "They should pray at home. We are strongly suggesting please pray at home."
Despite the extra precaution, some members of the Muslim community say it’s still too risky to be in crowds of any size.
Syed Shah, president of the University of Calgary’s Muslim Student Association, says the concern is during prayer when worshippers touch their face and the ground.
“Social distancing is something our community needs to take into account very importantly,” said Shah.
“A lot of Muslim households are intergenerational so our grandparents live with their great-grandparents and uncles and aunties. Even if they’re not going to the mosque, me, as a 23-year-old healthy young person, I’m putting a lot more people at risk being in that close proximity to so many different people,” he said.
Health officials confirm the coronavirus is spread through sneezing and coughing and when a person touches their face. People can also still carry the virus but display no symptoms.
In other faiths, some churches have closed including St. Michaels, which is offering Sunday services online.
Symons Valley United Church is doing the same. Reverend Vicki Mcphee says the building is only open to some staff members.
“We normally livestream our worship services so effectively to the public they aren’t going to look different if you’re watching in online, but we just won’t have the congregation suiting in the seats as we normally would on Sunday,” she said.
Soharwardy says when it comes to congregational prayers, in their faith, worshippers need to physically be behind the Imam and therefore, online services aren’t ideal.
As for closing their mosque, he says the option hasn’t been completely ruled out.
“If our authorities say everything is shutting down," he states. "Then the mosque will be closed too."