Myanmar Muslims pray at the Narsapuri Mosque to mark Eid al-Fitr in Yangon on July 7, 2016, as the country's Muslims celebrate the end of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan. (Photo: Romeo Gacad/AFP)
Muslims in Myanmar are observing Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, at their homes under a nationwide lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
The month-long observance began in Myanmar on April 24 amid the closure of prayer services at mosques to avoid mass gatherings.
The Islamic Religious Council of Myanmar, which comprises five organizations, has issued guidelines for Muslims to follow during Ramadan.
Muslims are urged to pray and fast at their homes only with family members and to avoid mass gatherings. Only imams and senior personnel should be present in mosques.
“In the time of the Covid-19 crisis, Muslims are urged to reach out to the poor and help support them,” the council’s letter said.
Muslim leaders are also instructed not to hold celebrations at mosques of Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, but instead hold them at home with their families.
“We continue our charitable works to respond to Covid-19 by providing food items to the needy and supplying masks and disinfectant liquid to communities,” said Aung Thein, a Muslim leader from Meikhtila in central Myanmar.
He added that they are also helping to arrange ambulances for emergency patients in collaboration with the Buddhist community.
“The advantage is that we, Muslims and Buddhists, work hand in hand to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, which overcomes hatred and mistrust,” Aung Thein told UCA News.
In Meikhtila, seven of 12 mosques have been closed since communal violence in 2013 that left 40 dead and scores injured.
The predominantly Buddhist country has seen several bouts of religious violence since 2012, much of it targeting Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
Muslims account for 4.3 percent of the population, according to the 2014 census. Most are of Indian, Chinese or Pathi descent.
In Yangon, Muslim leaders have established Myanmar Muslims Aid to beef up their efforts in responding to the coronavirus.
The group has provided masks, hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and bleach to hospitals and local authorities. It also provides food items such as rice and cooking oil for needy communities.
Myanmar’s religious ministry has urged Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindu not to hold prayer services at churches, mosques, temples and pagodas so as to avoid large gatherings.
In the commercial hub of Yangon, three more townships have been under semi-lockdown since April 25, joining five townships where lockdowns were imposed on April 17.
Yangon imposed a nighttime curfew for two months effective from April 23, while Mandalay, Sagaing, Naypyidaw, Kachin, Shan and Kayin states imposed similar curfews from April 17.
Myanmar has reported 146 Covid-19 cases including five deaths, according to the latest data.