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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Big gatherings vs faith and good judgment

 

The huge Friday prayer congregation at a mosque in Seremban last week could and should have been avoided.

Understandably, it is not easy to maintain the sense of spiritual connection when one must change the way one worships.

But it doesn’t make one any less faithful to have both faith and good judgment.

The horror of seeing a video clip that went viral showing a massive crowd in the compound of the mosque in Kampung Sentosa reflects something deeply callous about collectively fighting a pandemic.

The lockdown is not going as planned, to put it mildly; leniency and arbitrary decisions have shredded Covid-19 safety guidance.

Blindness to the rules is what makes some people act selfishly while others are more responsible.

Yet the government seems to have given leeway to its public relations battle while at the same time imposing stringent measures to protect the community.

While this column respects Friday prayers at mosques, this is a pointed reminder that large assemblies of people at a single place means the virus will find its way into the community and cause much damage.

Large gatherings during the movement control order period are disallowed. No exceptions.

Social distancing and wearing masks are currently the most important measures, with an individual’s behaviour the key: this includes practising early self-isolation and quarantine, seeking medical advice, and not attending large gatherings or going to crowded places.

On Friday, faith in the willingness of worshippers to toe the line was at a low ebb.

There was certainly little or no social distancing in evidence in the video clip that was accompanied by an audio of the man recording it. The man said many of those at the mosque were not following the SOPs, including not wearing masks, adding that he feared a new Covid-19 cluster would start there.

Negeri Sembilan mufti Mohd Yusof Ahmad has said the mosque in the video had followed the SOPs strictly.

Will the scene be allowed to play out again?

State police chief Mohd Said Ibrahim said he and his officers were present to help the authorities ensure the congregation complied with the SOPs, including the maximum number of people allowed.

How then did a high-stakes situation emerge?

To speculate that the authorities were not prepared for what had happened would not be entirely wrong.

For the record, the respective state Islamic authorities in the country decide on the limits and SOPs for the Friday prayers.

Together with the recent Putrajaya cock-up over free frozen chicken distribution and the big hair-cutting show in Sepang, people understandably have strong views about the incidents.

Given the minimal level of quarantines and testing, with a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases reported yesterday, there is rampant and justifiable speculation about what may happen next.

The optics of the situation don’t look good because as responsible citizens, we have been told that our lives must change radically; to continue our old ways is to endanger ourselves and those who are vulnerable.

Breaking the chain of infection requires that we all behave sensibly and it is everybody’s responsibility to expose those who continue to behave irresponsibly.

People troubled by the reckless and inconsiderate actions of some should not be dismissed by the authorities as causing hysteria and indulging in lush assumptions about what may happen.

Responsibility is as much a matter of emotion, as it is a matter of reason.

Do we feel responsible? Do we feel that our actions can make a real difference? Are we ashamed when we fail to act responsibly?

It is one thing to be indifferent to statistics and expert warnings, and another to contribute to the suffering and death of others as hospitals run out of beds and human resources.

These large gatherings should not be happening. The risks are too high.

The government needs to embrace a thinking anchored in reality. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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