A mosque secretary has spoken of his disappointment after a photo was shared showing what appeared to be ‘crowds’ of Muslims praying in a car park.

A picture shared on social media from street level in Audley Range, Blackburn seemed to suggest those taking part in Eid prayers were not social distancing.

But on closer inspection a CCTV image of the same prayers shows worshippers clearly praying in their allocated places, each with their own payer mat.

Mosques across the UK hosted Eid prayers Friday. In Blackburn, mosque volunteers were on hand to enforce strict government guidelines for religious buildings with prayers held at staggered times. Mosque capacity was limited inside and outside of buildings.

The offending image has been removed from the Facebook page after being alerted by one user who prayed at the mosque on that very morning. An updated screenshot from the CCTV image was also then shared to allay any concerns.

Hasan Desai, General Secretary of the Masjide Noorul Islam, said: “It was disappointing to see that the photo taken on Eid day, which did not justify all the work Noorul Islam mosque committee and volunteers have put in to adhere to the social distancing rules since the reopening of places of worship, but when the aerial view photo was uploaded clearly showing social distancing it was great to see support from the wider community. 

“People are now more aware of the positive contributions that the Muslim community play in the society, and this was reflected in the support and positive comments from people from all faiths and backgrounds on social media site which posted both the photos.”

Mr Desai said the mosque had taken the extra steps by putting in strict social distancing guidelines, sanitizer, face mask covering with continued deep cleaning on a regular basis.

He said: “Even though the government shared the lockdown information on the eve of Eid, which was challenging for most families. We continued to urge people to celebrate Eid in their own homes. 

“We would like to thank all the volunteers and the Imams that have stepped up and helped deliver the services and delivering key safety messages. We continue to urge people to adhere to the government guidelines, as the mosque have been doing and will continue to do so.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

The CCTV image released by Masjide Noorul Islam

He said the many untold stories of volunteers assisting the wider community should take focus at this time, “We are living in challenging times, which require extraordinary responses.  Therefore, Noorul Islam Mosque took early steps to safeguard the NHS, local and wider community, elderly, those who were vulnerable, Mosque attendees, Madrassah and Al Islah School pupils and staff, in these unprecedented times. 

“We knew people would struggle financially and emotionally so the Mosque introduced a Noorul Islam Mosque COVID-19 volunteers group. 

“We had such a big response for volunteers to help deliver food parcels, shopping and a chat service. Just someone contacting the elderly and the vulnerable for a friendly chat and asking them if required anything, made a big difference.”

The group helped the Foodbank and families in Blackburn, Darwen, Blackpool and Leyland. 

Ayaan Loonat who spotted the image posted, “This is how hatred is spread in the world. We prayed our prayers at Noorul Islam Masjid on Audley Range Blackburn today and we were social distancing but the first picture was taken in such a way by someone to make people think there’s no social distancing.

“But we asked the management for today’s top view CCTV footage to show exactly how people were praying in the mosques today.

“I am a Muslim yet I’ve only heard of two people who I know from the thousands of Asian friends, family and colleagues who have had to isolate because they were told they had COVID. I’m not saying there is no disease but the severity seems to be really hyped or I am just lucky that everyone I know is safe.”

He told us today, "These are the messages people of other colour were sending to that group. Amazing and humbling to see this happen. There’s no room for racism in this world. On my Facebook page there’s over 5000 shares mainly by non Muslims nearly 800 comments mainly all positive and wishing us Eid Mubarak. And over 3000 likes So it’s only positive to see this."

The Lancashire Council of Mosques said it was ‘disheartening’ to see this after mosques had tried their very best to ensure worshippers were kept safe.

A statement from Masjide Noorul Islam read today, "Maulana Rafiq Sufi Chair of the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) said, “We have been working with more than a hundred mosques to ensure they are Covid-19 safe. Much of this work was done in advance of any guidelines. We have been proactive on our approach. For instance, the wearing of the face covering which was something we pushed for earlier, in early July.

“Mosques have therefore been one of the most safest places to attend.

“With regards to this image on a different angle the reality is very different. This kind of irresponsible, disgusting, falsifying images and narrative posting will cause community tension and racial tension.

“It is disheartening to see messages like this.

“I have feedback from many mosques yesterday (Eid day). LCM has been hosting a series of webinars on celebrating Eid safely and the feedback we are getting is very positive.

“The local authorities have come out to say they are thankful for the contribution of mosques.

“The amount of volunteer work and the fact that mosques have been helping the vulnerable throughout the pandemic is something the Prime Minister touched upon in his Eid message this week."