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To Open or Close? COVID-19, Mosques and the Role of Religious Authority within the British Muslim Community: A Socio-Legal Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
Article number11
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>24/12/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Religions
Issue number1
Volume12
Number of pages26
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

A whirlwind of developments have unfolded in the UK since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has subsequently instigated an intensely animated debate among British Muslim religious leaders about the contentious and sensitive topic of mosque closure, producing a rich and sophisticated spectrum of responses. These responses emerged within the dramatic global background of an imminent closure of Islam’s most cherished mosque to international pilgrims, namely the sacred precinct in Mekkah. The stakes were, therefore, high for British Muslim religious leaders considering mosque closure, facing the stark dilemma of compromising the sacrosanct status of the mosque and congregational worship in Islam or putting the lives of British Muslims in their hundreds of thousands at risk. This paper seeks to analyze the role of religious authority within the British Muslim community through the lens of the responses of the community’s religious leaders to the COVID-19 closure of mosques. It builds upon a Special Issue published by this journal on leadership, authority and representation in British Muslim communities. The issue of COVID-19 mosque closure in the UK presented an excellent case study for this paper’s analysis, manifesting as it does the dynamic way in which religious authority in the British Muslim community continues to evolve. This paper thus seeks to use this case-study to further enrich the literature on this topic.