Muslim anger as warning signs tell worshippers to ‘Celebrate Eid safely’ – but some question why similar notices were not made for VE Day

  • Sandwich-style board displays with messages were spotted across Bradford
  • Messages included instructions that said ‘No handshake, no hugs, hands off’
  • Some questioned why public warnings were not made during other celebrations

Authorities have been accused of double standards after signs warning Muslims to ‘Celebrate Eid safely’ were posted.

Sandwich-board style displays across Bradford also instructed ‘No handshake, no hugs, hands off’ during the religious festival that ended yesterday.

On Facebook, the council said: ‘Watch out for our teams who are out and about reminding people about the guidelines to keep coronavirus at bay and how to celebrate Eid-Al-Adha safely.’

However, some questioned why similar public warnings had not been made during other major celebrations, such as VE Day in May. 

Bradford has the third highest Covid infection rate in England and is one of several areas in the North where new restrictions have been imposed in an attempt to stop a second wave

One social media user posted: ‘Spoiled our Eid.’

Bradford has the third highest Covid infection rate in England and is one of several areas in the North where new restrictions have been imposed in an attempt to stop a second wave.

The news comes following reports that Sage scientists told ministers weeks ago that Eid would be ‘problematic’ in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a report submitted to Number 10 on July 2, experts advising the Government highlighted the Islamic festival as one of 10 events that could see Brits discard social distancing.

Sandwich-board style displays across Bradford also instructed ‘No handshake, no hugs, hands off’ during the religious festival that ended yesterday

That report said Eid could be ‘potentially problematic if occurring in the context of a localised lockdown or in a situation where a lockdown might be expected’. 

Minutes from a SAGE meeting a week later, on July 9, revealed scientists were also concerned about spikes in areas in northern England with large South Asian populations.

Experts said: ‘Current hotspots are mainly in the Midlands and North of England and are in areas with deprivation, high-density living conditions and significant BAME (particularly south Asian) communities.

‘Communications need to reflect this epidemiological picture. Policy leads in CO [Cabinet Office] and DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care] will need to take note and act accordingly.’

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock denied that he had targeted celebrations with a last-minute move to introduce strict new lockdown restrictions on 4.5million people living in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

He told the BBC that ‘My heart goes out to the Muslim communities in these areas because I know how important Eid celebrations are.’  

Eid al-Adha – the festival of sacrifice – follows the completion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

It is the second major celebration of the Islamic calendar after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of fasting called Ramadan.

Many Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, which can last between two to four days, by sacrificing an animal for feasts to be shared by family, friends and those in need in large groups.

OTHER SCENARIOS SAGE FEARED COULD BECOME ‘SUPER-SPREADING’ EVENTS

The July 9 report submitted to ministers detailed 10 events that could threaten social distancing.

SAGE wrote: 

1. The escalation of programmes of protest paused during the lockdown (e.g. Extinction Rebellion, anti-HS2).

2. The beginning of protests planned during the lockdown, (e.g anarchist / anti-capitalist groups seeking to frustrate a ‘return to normality’; some are planned for July).

3. Possible resumption of terrorist activity beyond lone-actors, which may complicate the policing and volatility of large assemblies. 

4. Resumption of right-wing protests planned on issues such as child sexual exploitation or ‘blaming’ BAME communities for local lockdown measures. 

5. Possible attempts to stage unofficial Orange Order events in public (e.g. Belfast, Glasgow) despite official cancellation of marches on 12th July. 

6. Eid al Adha (31st July) potentially problematic if occurring in the context of a localised lockdown or in a situation where a lockdown might be expected. 

7. The cancellation of the Notting Hill Carnival in London on the August Bank Holiday. 

8. Rising unemployment and/or anxiety about employment as furlough is wound down. 

9. An increasing sense of grievance/inequality as a result of localised lockdowns.

10. Increasing ethnic conflict (already apparent in several cities) as a result of the imposition of more localised lockdowns, as well as increasing scapegoating of various communities (including East Asians). 

All the above require further consideration and analysis. There is a particular need for on-going risk assessments of public disorder and mechanisms of mitigation; of hate crimes and extremism; and the suite of problems arising from localised lockdown.

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