DC-area religious leaders make adjustments to counter coronavirus concerns

As the coronavirus spreads, D.C.-area Muslim leaders are taking action to protect their congregants.

After a decision from Fairfax County Public Schools to close schools Friday, the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, decided to cancel this week’s Friday prayers.

This weekend’s activities will also be canceled, the mosque said in an updated statement Friday afternoon. The mosque’s board has decided to close the mosque for congregational prayers and activities “until further notice.”

The mosque is closed over the weekend to be “completely disinfected,” the board said.


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An earlier plan from Dar Al-Hijrah included exempting the elderly, who experts say are the most at risk, from Friday prayers at one of the largest D.C.-area mosques.

Across Northern Virginia, more than 100,000 Muslims gather for Friday prayers. Regular prayers at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque on a nightly basis typically have between 300 to 400 people of all ages attending. About 4,000 attend Friday prayers there.

“We’re trying to take all necessary action to reduce the amount of people who are attending at one time in congregation,” said Saif Rahman, Dar Al-Hijrah’s director of public and government affairs.

“As Muslims, we’re already washing five times a day in preparation for prayers. So, we’ve asked our congregation and others to add soap to that ritual washing essentially to achieve the hygiene necessary,” Rahman said.

The addition of soap was an initiative that began before coronavirus concerns. But Rahman said now, “We’ve actually increased that messaging going out to our community.”

The Adams Center in Loudoun County is another one of the region’s largest Muslim communities. It’s following the example of the county school system and has canceled classes for school children. Dar Al-Hijrah schools will follow Fairfax County’s lead.

The Adams Center has also canceled gatherings at some locations, because it’s associated with the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. Rahman said that congregation has closed its center and canceled D.C. prayers that are held at a city church that’s also closed.

Adas Israel, the largest Jewish congregation in D.C., has closed its building and canceled all worship services, Gan classes, religious school classes, programs and events through March 29.

As a Muslim, Rahman said he believes it’s his duty to take all necessary precautions but also trust that “God has the best for all of us.”

It’s a delicate balance asking people to take necessary precautions without sounding alarmist. “It’s a matter of trying to educate on the religious and spiritual, while also taking into account the Health Department requirements,” Rahman said.

The Virginia Council of Muslim Organizations, which covers many Islamic centers across Northern Virginia, planned to gather via conference call Thursday evening to decide on any changes for member organizations to implement.

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