KARACHI: Pakistani mosques were thronged with people who arrived for congregational prayers on Friday, despite President Arif Alvi’s appeal to all those with flu symptoms to stay at home in the wake of coronavirus reports in the country.
“I have flu, but it’s normal, so I came to the mosque,” Muhamamd Saqlain, a 20-year-old worshiper at Jamia Aqsa Mosque in Karachi told Arab News.
Others too arrived to offer prayers, citing their religious obligation.
“We don’t need masks. All people are healthy, and we just cannot skip our Friday prayers over coronavirus fears,” said Irfan Ali, another member of the congregation.
On Thursday evening, President Alvi called on all worshippers with symptoms of illness to refrain from joining public gatherings to avoid posing a health threat to others.
“People who have fever cough shortness of breath or any flu symptom should avoid going to public gatherings,” the president said in a Twitter post, adding that he had sought advice from religious scholars and those who are unwell should perform their prayers at home.
People who have fever cough shortness of breath or any flu symptom should avoid going to public gatherings. I have taken opinion from Ulema that for the sake of community well being they can perform prayers at home & avoid Jumma congregation so as not to put other people at risk.
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) February 27, 2020
The plea came after first coronavirus infections were reported in Pakistan on Wednesday, but it was not convincing to most people.
Jaffar Askari, a Karachi University employee who usually attends Friday prayers at Imambargah, said the president’s request and the news of virus infections had no impact on prayer attendance.
“People no longer panic knowing that the coronavirus fatality rate is only 2 percent,” he said.
“If I am in trouble, where should I go? I will go to the mosque. I pray and hope that God will protect me from all fatal diseases,” 60-year-old Mumtaz Shah told Arab News.
Dr. Amir Tauseen, a religious scholar and former chairman of Madrassa Education Board, told Arab News that calls concerning religious duties should come from the Council of Islamic Ideology rather than the president.
“The president should act responsibly and tweet anything after taking religious scholars and the Council of Islamic Ideology on board,” he told Arab News, but added that it was not wrong to ask persons with illness symptoms to offer prayers at home and scholars have made such requests before.