A BAN on a mosque opening for Friday prayers due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a breach of worshippers' human rights, the High Court has heard.
Tabassum Hussain, chairman of the executive committee of the Jamiyat Tabligh-ul-Islam Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Bradford, is seeking an urgent injunction against the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Photo: Courtesy: telegraph & Argus
The injunction would allow his place of worship to open for communal prayers on Friday ahead of the end of Ramadan this weekend.
Under the latest emergency rules to deal with the pandemic, places of worship must remain closed, although a faith leader can attend to broadcast prayers and acts of worship via the internet.
But Mr Hussain argues that the closures are unlawful and breach his rights to religious freedom and worship.
At a hearing on Thursday, Mr Hussain's barrister, Kirsty Brimelow QC, told Mr Justice Swift that the Friday prayers, known as the Jummah, are a "fundamental aspect" and an "obligatory" part of the practice of Islam.
She said that the key to the prayers is that they are "carried out physically in congregation".
In documents before the court, Ms Brimelow said that the interference with Mr Hussain's human rights was "particularly severe".
"The regulations not only prohibit an obligatory aspect of Islam, but they have done so at a highly symbolic moment, namely during the holy month of Ramadan, when the importance of strict religious observance is attenuated."
The ban has caused "deep distress", she added.
Ms Brimelow also argued that the effect of the regulations mean "it is lawful for a member of the public to visit garden centres, golf clubs, or house-viewings in private homes, but not for the claimant to arrange for socially distanced communal prayers in a mosque".
She told the court: "There is no difference in our submission to a gathering of people within a garden centre to a gathering of people inside another place."
Ms Brimelow said that Mr Hussain had put forward a plan for the mosque to open only for an hour and a half for the Jummah prayer, with a maximum of 50 worshippers and social distancing in place.
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), said in court documents that there is an "undisputed interference" with ability of people to attend their place of worship during the lockdown, but that this is "justified and proportionate by the need to protected life and public health".
He told Mr Justice Swift that the current situation, and changes to lockdown rules, involve matters of judgment, adding "the advice in a nutshell is the virus is highly contagious and particularly easy to spread in gatherings of people and indoors".
Sir James said: "This is all a question of judgment. There isn't a right answer, just a series of highly difficult judgment calls that need to be made."
Courtesy: Telegraph & Argus 21 May 2020 https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/18466368.mosque-ban-bradford-breach-worshippers-human-rights/
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