Muslim leader brands northern lockdown 'appalling abuse of power' amid Eid festivities

31 July 2020, 11:57

Mohammed Shafiq from the Ramadhan Foundation reacting to the timing of the new measures and impact on Eid

By Ewan Somerville

The leader of one of Britain’s biggest Muslim organisations has branded the new lockdown rules for northern England “an appalling abuse” of Government power.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said he “condemned” the “last minute” announcement of fresh curbs, revealed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Twitter hours before they came into force at midnight.

Separate households are now banned from meeting indoors in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.

The new rules also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

Mr Hancock told LBC the new rules, which affect up to four million people, were necessary to tackle the “stubbornly high” Covid-19 infections in the region.

READ MORE: Government 'sparks chaos' with 'last minute' lockdown rules on Twitter

READ MORE: New northern England curbs due to 'stubbornly high' Covid-19 infections, says Hancock

The new rules affect Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and West Yorkshire
The new rules affect Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Picture: PA

Mr Shafiq called the move an “appalling decision” which will “have a massive impact on the British Muslim community”, which had begun preparations for communal feasts as part of Eid celebrations.

“For the Government to make that announcement on social media, without any regard for British Muslims I think is an appalling abuse of its power, and just shows you how disconnected they are from wider society,” he said.

“The way to have dealt with this would have been to engage with the British Muslim community, and other communities here in the north-west and Yorkshire, and make sure that people understood the severity of what is happening in terms of the spike.”

Activists and councillors have questioned whether the rules were aimed at curtailing celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice celebrated by many Muslims by assembling family and friends for large feasts.

Nick Ferrari asks Matt Hancock about new lockdown rules in north

But asked on whether the measures were announced late on Thursday night to stop Eid celebrations from taking place, Mr Hancock said: “No, my heart goes out to the Muslim communities in these areas because I know how important the Eid celebrations are.

“I'm very grateful to the local Muslim leaders, the imams in fact, across the country who've been working so hard to find a way to have Covid-secure celebrations.

“For instance celebrating Eid in parks where there's more space available and of course outdoors is safer than indoors.”

James O'Brien's direct message for Matt Hancock

The Health Secretary revealed to LBC there is no “specific number” required to be reached for the Government to impose local lockdown conditions.

He said the rates of new cases has been “going up over the past few weeks, and they've been stubbornly high in some areas.”

The Government said it will give police forces and councils powers to enforce the new rules - adding that some exemptions will be put in place, including for the vulnerable.