Italy’s mosques could reopen within weeks, as the country begins the second phase of its exit from a tough and lengthy lockdown.
Catholic churches are set to resume their services with worshippers in attendance on May 18, and the country’s Muslim communities have been stepping up their dialogue with the Interior Ministry in the hope that mosques can follow suit and open their doors again to gatherings and congregational prayers.
Italy’s lockdown began on March 9, with mosques closing that same date.
While there are almost 2.5 million Muslims in Italy, the issue with most of the country’s mosques is their size. There are almost 100 mosques in the capital but half of them are significantly smaller than the Great Mosque of Rome, which is considered to be the biggest in Europe.
Some are concerned that small and medium-sized mosques may not be able to guarantee government requirements for social distancing.
“Most of them do not belong to national association bodies,” he told the Ofcs.report news website. “This is why I tell all the Italian mosques: Once a date will be decided please open only if you will be able to guarantee the safety of the congregation. Otherwise, please stay closed.
Waiting for clarification
Before the lockdown, the Muslim community in Italy had already recommended to the community that they should not to go to Friday prayers because the gatherings could have aided the infection to spread.
But there remain questions, and a call for clarification of how to reopen mosques in line with the government’s phase two “unlock” strategy.
The local Muslim community is awaiting for clarification. Yassine Lafram is president of the Union of Italian Islamic Communities “Everything is being discussed at the Interior Ministry in Rome with the representatives of all the confessions, but we still must understand what we can do. We have to see if only individual prayers or meditations will be allowed or we will have a green light also for bigger gatherings of the faithful. ”
Genoa’s Muslim community has continued to help the needy during Ramadan despite the lockdown, with the imam going to prison every week for Friday prayers and taking dates to Muslim inmates there as a symbol of sharing during the holy month.
Muslims are meeting virtually, through online platforms, to share iftars and for other occasions. “Of course it is not the same as we would normally do, but it allowed us to comply with the restrictions of the pandemic in a serene way.”
A first draft with security measures to support the reopening of places of worship has already been submitted.
It includes sanitising places of worship before and after religious services are held; using outdoor spaces wherever possible to respect social distancing; the mandatory use of face masks, gloves and disinfectant for the congregation, as well as strict discipline for access and outflow from the place of prayer.
“We are working on an ‘ad hoc’ protocol, but we do not have a date for reopening yet,” said Lafram. “Prudence and precaution must prevail. We want to reopen but safely. We hope we will reach a specific solution for May 24 at the latest for the end of Ramadan.”
Islam gives great relevance to rites related to purification and personal hygiene. The fact of washing hands, nose and mouth frequently is part of our culture and this has certainly helped.
There have been 30,560 deaths recorded in Italy and confirmed cases in excess of 219,000, according to data from John Hopkins University.