Hancock praises Muslims for Ramadan ‘sacrifice’ amid pandemic lockdown
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has thanked Muslims across the UK for their "sacrifice" as they mark Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The holy month, in which adult Muslims fast and reflect, begins on April 23 and usually sees worshippers congregate, pray and celebrate together, attending mosques in numbers.
But with mosques remaining closed and worshippers being told to pray at home, this year will be very different.
Speaking at the Government's daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Hancock said: "This Ramadan, many Muslims who serve their country in the NHS and in the armed forces, and in so many other ways, will not be sharing the joy of this month as they normally do.
"I want to say to all British Muslims, thank you for staying at home. I know how important the daily Iftar is, how important communal prayers are at night and how important the Eid festival is.
"Thank you for making major changes to these vital parts of your practice and I want to say to you all Ramadan Mubarak. And thank you for your service and citizenship and thank you for your sacrifice."
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) published guidance for worshippers, which advised celebrating Ramadan "digitally" and sharing Iftar – the meal with which Muslims end their daily fasting – with family over FaceTime rather than in person.
Meanwhile, a Muslim doctor and health campaigner said there was a religious obligation for the UK's lockdown rules to be obeyed during Ramadan and encouraged those who have contracted Covid-19 not to fast.
Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE says there are faith-based motives for people of all religions to avoid breaking the UK's Covid-19 lockdown guidance, and even supporting religious texts.
"Following the instructions put forward by the Government is more or less a religious obligation," Dr Chauhan, a GP who has been on-call "more or less" 24 hours a day fighting the virus, told the PA news agency.
"If the purpose of your religious obligations and your prayers is to ask for forgiveness ... then certainly you can't put others at risk while you're asking for forgiveness.
"I'm not a Muslim scholar ... but my understanding by reading the general text, the sayings of prophet and even the Koran is that you need to protect your life."
The GP also "strongly" recommended those who are suffering from Covid-19 not to fast as it is important for them to keep their hydration and energy levels up to fight the virus.
"If you are poorly, you are allowed to not fast ... If you are suffering from diabetes and other health conditions, when your life could be at risk, then please do not fast," he said.
Noor Hadi, 24, a British imam and Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (Amya) volunteer, said the group is moving its work online.
"During the month of Ramadan usually we have classes or lectures delivered by imams or other Muslim leaders," he told PA. "We've made everything virtual now."
Regular interactive vlogs, including tips on cooking and how to keep fit, will also continue to be available, while the group has organised the Big Virtual Iftar too, where Muslims will break their fast together online.