By Atiya Chowdhury
On Thursday 30 July at 9:16PM Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the reintroduction of lockdown measures on certain areas in the northern parts of England, with many of the regions holding a high proportion of England’s Muslim population. The announcement came just two hours before the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid.
Eid al-Adha is the last of the two holidays in the Islamic calendar and marks a day of celebration for Muslims around the world. It is a day to feast with family and is incredibly significant to Islam.
Muslim households prepare for the occasion by cooking days in advance. Many people in the country were excited to celebrate this Eid with family after Eid al-Fitr – celebrated on the 23rd – 24th May 2020 – could not be celebrated due to the nationwide lockdown that ran from March.
The very short notice of Hancock’s announcement, not only ruined plans but meant that people could not meet their families or celebrate a holiday which had already been hugely altered by the pandemic.
This meant the announcement was met with criticism.
Many people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, felt that the sudden lockdown was targeted towards the Islamic community. The new lockdown measures include places such as Manchester, Bradford and Luton, all of which are predominantly Muslim areas. To make matters worse, activities such as going to the pub and restaurants were still permitted yet Friday prayer (a sacred part of Eid) and meeting family indoors was restricted.
Regarding the short notice, many people brought into discussion on social media how this would most likely not be the case if it were a more western holiday such as Christmas. The government gave a two week notice before people were allowed to go shopping with safety measures and protocols yet the Muslim community in northern England were barely given two hours.
Whilst these discussions are indeed speculative, we can turn our attention back to VE day celebrations in May, where conga-filled street parties were labelled as a mark of the British fighting spirit: but Muslims are shunned for wanting to go to prayer on a sacred holiday.
This has sparked a conversation about the undercurrents of Islamophobia in this policy decision and how England still has an issue regarding its treatment towards Muslims. While the Heath Secretary denied that the new lockdown had anything to do with Muslims specifically, the damage had been done and the Muslim community felt that it was yet another act of hostility towards them.