Island mosque adapts to reopen with restrictions

The Masjid Dar As-Salam in Charlottetown reopened Tuesday after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The mosque and other places of religious worship have been shut down since March when the province's pandemic restrictions came into effect.

The mosque has now resumed daily prayers, which are offered five times a day, with restrictions.

"People will have to adapt because of the circumstances in which we are right now until further guidelines from the provinces," said Zain Esseghaier, spokesperson with the Muslim Society of P.E.I.

"We have to live with that and do our best."

New process

The society said those who don't follow the restrictions will not be admitted into the mosque. The new rules include:

  • No more than 15 people in the mosque.

  • Physical distancing must be maintained.

  • People must wear a mask and bring their own prayer mat.

  • Avoid touching anything in the mosque, including copies of the Qur'an.

  • People must arrive and leave one at a time.

  • No gatherings on the mosque property after prayers. People must leave the property.

  • People must stay away if they have any cold or cough-like symptoms, have been out of the province in the last 14 days or if they fall under the high risk category

The mosque will open 15 minutes before prayers begin and locked afterward so the space can be fully sanitized between prayers.

The 15 spots for each of the five daily prayers will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis. The only exception is Friday prayers, or congregational prayers, for which Esseghaier said there are normally 100 to 150 people. 

For many people, there's something missing in their lives if they can not go to the mosque. — Zain Esseghaier, Muslim Society of P.E.I.

For these, the society will be making a link available online for people to sign up for one of four weeks. They are also hoping to get a bit creative while still adhering to public health measures.

"That's really where we have the largest number of people attending, Friday prayer," said Esseghaier.

"So 15 would be admitted to the mosque, 20 would be directed to go to the backyard and to pray there. Now, we will see about the weather."

Both a social and religious gathering

Throughout the closure, Esseghaier said P.E.I.'s Muslim community has been praying at home and many will be excited to return to the mosque.

For the time being, that's the new reality with which we have to live. — Zain Esseghaier, Muslim Society of P.E.I.

"Well people were very anxious," he said.

"There is a social aspect and there is a religious aspect to the prayer. Not being able to go to the mosque, this is a little bit upsetting for many people."

Under Phase 3 of the province's ease-back plan, gatherings are limited to 15 people indoors and 20 outdoors. Esseghaier said while that's a low number, he understands why the limit is necessary.

"So we have to adapt to that new normal and we're looking forward to going back to the mosque and to perform prayer together." 

In a news briefing on Tuesday, P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said officials would be meeting this week to discuss plans for Phase 4, which could come into effect in either late June or early July. 

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

With that, Islanders may expect to see larger numbers allowed for gatherings, though the chief public health officer said that will depend on how reopening affects the province.

Esseghaier said the Muslim Society of P.E.I. is optimistic but realistic.

"For many people, there's something missing in their lives if they cannot go to the mosque," he said.

"Hopefully things will improve in the next few weeks, if not few months, but for the time being, that's the new reality with which we have to live."

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