Muslims in Turkey’s southeastern province of Urfa have dismissed a decision by the country’s top religious authority to suspend all congregational prayers in mosques, including traditional Friday prayers, amid coronavirus fears.
Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head Ali Erbaş on March 16 announced the decision, saying that mosques will be kept open for “individual prayers” only.
Speaking to a local media outlet, a group of Muslim’s in Urfa’s Eyyübiye district said that they won’t abide by the decision.
“The life given by God can only be taken by God,” one of the residents told Kanal Urfa, adding that performing mass prayers in mosques is Allah’s commandment.
“We are not afraid of the coronavirus. Since Allah ordered prayers to be performed with congregation, we will go on. The will of Allah can’t be spoiled over [various] reasons,” another said.
‘Threatening public health is a crime’
Separately, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said that to act in a way that would damage public health is a crime according to the Turkish Penal Code.
“Acts that would threaten public health, such as not abiding by a quarantine, are crimes according to our penal code. Please be utterly careful for the future of our children and country,” Gül said on Twitter on March 17.
Gül’s remarks come a day after a group of pilgrims in the Central Anatolian province of Konya attempted to escape from coronavirus quarantine.