An estimated 2.8 million Muslims living in the UK celebrated the holy festival of Eid-ul-Azha this morning. The half a million strong Bengali community in the UK also celebrated Eid with family members in a limited manner as coronavirus lockdowns remain and new restrictions have been introduced in the northern cities of England.
Mosques have now reopened for prayers and services, but in a Covid-secure way and ensuring physical distancing has meant most mosques were not able to welcome as many worshippers as before. The Muslim community was requested by the government to safely celebrate Eid -- keeping a safe distance, maintaining good hygiene and be aware of what to do if one has symptoms of Covid-19 -- to ensure protection of family and friends, and the wider community.
Eid prayers were held across a thousand mosques in the UK. London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where majority of the Bengalis reside, has over forty mosques. There were several jamaats in those mosques. The largest mosque of Bengalis Muslims, the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, held four jamaats -- at 8am, 9am, 10am and the final one at 11am.
Amid the pandemic, mosques have had to adapt, and it meant fewer people were able to attend. Worshippers had to bring their own prayers mat, perform ablution (wudu) at home before coming to the mosque, and facemasks were compulsory. While entering the mosque, their temperatures were also taken. Some prayers were held outdoors as the weather was good and the temperature reached almost 35 degree celsius in London.
Some also celebrated with families and friends virtually using applications such as Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, Viber and others.
The High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem sent her Eid greetings in an online message.
Similarly, Mayor of Tower Hamlets Council John Biggs wished Eid Mubarak to the Muslim community by saying that Eid Al-Azha celebrates the end of Hajj, a time of great celebration -- families together, mass worship and pilgrimage. It's also a time to celebrate the strong community of Tower Hamlets, he said, adding, "We work together, celebrate each other's successes and respect each other's faiths." He said this year things were different, but the same values and the same spirit remained. "And so, Eid Mubarak and very best wishes to everyone celebrating. I hope you enjoy this time with your family but please do so safely," he said.