Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque suspends Friday prayers over COVID-19 concerns

Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque. Photo: musnahterinjak / WIkipedia Commons
Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque. Photo: musnahterinjak / WIkipedia Commons

Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, has suspended Friday prayers for at least the next two weeks to prevent further COVID-19 spread in the capital.

“After discussing the matter with grand imams from several Islamic countries who have done the same, we have decided that, starting today, Istiqlal Mosque won’t hold Friday prayers for the next two Fridays,” Istiqlal Grand Imam Nasaruddin Umar said at a press conference this morning.

In support of the government’s social distancing advisory, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest Islamic clerical body in the country, previously issued a fatwa (religious edict) allowing Muslims living in high-risk COVID-19 areas to pray at home instead.

The policy proved to be controversial in Muslim majority Indonesia, with one political figure going as far as to say that it implies Islamophobia while urging Muslims not to be afraid of going to the mosque.

Though there is no official lockdown in Jakarta, Governor Anies Baswedan yesterday suspended Friday prayers, as well as other communal religious gatherings and services, in the city for at least the next two weeks.

Depok, where Indonesia’s first COVID-19 patients reside, has also enforced a similar suspension.

It’s not clear what sanctions, if any, violators of the prohibition would face.

Indonesia is showing a trajectory for exponential growth of COVID-19 cases in the country after the government announced 82 new infections yesterday, taking the country’s official caseload to 309.  

Achmad Yurianto, Indonesia’s spokesman for COVID-19-related matters, finally released more comprehensive data breaking down the number of total cases by province, with Jakarta accounting for the majority of infections. 

Of the 82 new cases, Achmad said that 52 of the patients are from Jakarta. 

The death toll has also increased to 25 from 19 yesterday, and seventeen of the deaths were recorded in Jakarta.

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