New York Mosque Still Open for Daily Prayers While Churches Across the Country Face Mandatory Shutdowns
By Phil Silver
A mosque in New York is reportedly still open for daily prayers amid the coronavirus pandemic that has forced Christian churches across the country to close their doors and cancel their in-person gatherings.
While churchgoers in many states have been criticized and even punished for continuing to gather, that same level of scrutiny has apparently not been leveled at the Mosque of Jesus, Son of Mary in Syracuse, New York.
What are the details?
Despite the state's executive order, which broadly bans all "non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason," neighborhood Muslims are still allowed gather together in the mosque's prayer room for calls to prayer throughout the week.
"About 10 worshippers in masks are allowed in at a time, though rarely do that many show up. They stand far apart from each other as they follow a prayer leader standing on a plastic-covered prayer rug," a Syracuse.com report notes. (Though in a video of one of the prayers, it appears that the worshippers are not at least 6 feet away, as the Centers for Disease Control recommends).
While it should be noted that the mosque has gone to great lengths to limit attendees' exposure to the virus by covering the prayer room in plastic and installing a special ventilation system, it is unclear as to how that exempts the mosque from the government mandate.
Yet instead of facing criticism for continuing to gather, the mosque was commended by the news outlet for its efforts to "keep the faith" during the pandemic, especially as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches.
According to the report, Irfan Elahi, an asbestos abatement expert who worships at the mosque, said that when the outbreak started, mosque leaders in the area were worried that Muslims would panic if daily prayers were cancelled.
What's the background?
Over the past few weeks, churchgoers in many states have been prohibited from gathering and, in many cases, have been punished for doing so despite government orders.
In Mississippi, some churchgoers received $500 fines for sitting in their vehicles in a church parking lot listening to a radio broadcast of the service. In Kentucky, nails were allegedly scattered at the parking lot entrances to prevent people from attending the Easter service. A northern California county even outlawed singing during church livestreams unless people are in a home.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to "permanently" shut down churches and synagogues if they refused to comply with the government's shelter-in-place order.
New York state, where the mosque is located, has been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, with over 130,000 confirmed cases and more than 14,000 deaths reported as of Monday, according to the New York Times.