COVID-19: Imam ‘melancholic and upset’ as Muslims hold muted Eid al-Fitr celebrations

After leading prayers, Imam Ansarey says usually around 400 people would sit together and pray for the morning Eid prayer – today only 120 were allowed in.

After a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, usually, Muslims would celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their family and friends.

But for the second year in a row, they will have to mark the occasion under COVID-19 restrictions – unable to hug their loved ones.

Abu Sayed Ansarey, Hounslow Muslim Centre’s imam tells Sky News he feels "melancholic and upset" about the muted celebrations.

"Normally, we would go to my in-laws, or my in-laws come to our house, around 15-20 people get together, and the children open their presents in the morning," he says.

"We would organise Eid in the park, but because of the pandemic and COVID restrictions we can’t have that many people in the park, so we pray in the mosque and after prayer, we come back to the house, and we eat lovely food and special Eid dishes."

Traditionally, people would hug the imam and embrace one another, hugging and handshaking – with the major relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions just a few days away, Imam Ansarey says "it’s unfair but necessary to ensure people’s safety".

He adds: "I have lost many relatives, including my mother-in-law so I sometimes feel really, really sad.

"More than 127,000 people have lost their lives [in the UK] because of COVID-19.

"You know when you go to the mosque and you don’t see those people, the elderly people, you really miss them on the day of Eid."

He hopes next year festivities will return to normal as he urges Muslims to take the vaccine when they’re called.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show the lowest vaccination rates are among those who identify as Muslim, at 78.8%, compared with the 93.2% of those who identify as Christians.

"I would ask every Muslim brother and sister to get the vaccine done because it’s very important… if you save one life, you’ve saved all of humanity", says Imam Ansarey.

"Today is Eid day, fortunately, or even unfortunately, I’ve got my appointment to get my vaccine, but I’m going and I’m happy to do it."

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