Mosque representatives have spoken out over what they say are ‘misconceptions’ on the issue of numbers attending communal prayers in Lancashire.

They also said they had had ramped up efforts to ensure people kept to strict guidelines.

At present, Government legislation does allow places of worship to remain open in England provided people do not mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble.

Last week Lancashire’s Directors of Public Health wrote to places of worship urging them to close during lockdown to protect communities. This led to 11 mosques in Pendle suspending all congregation prayers.

The call came after ‘increasing numbers of cases in Lancashire and worrying increases in the number of people hospitalised from Covid, as well as increasing numbers of deaths’.

In Blackburn which has more than 50 mosques only one has closed for the foreseeable future.

Mosques have had strict guidelines in place with worshippers not permitted to use the ablution areas, told to wear masks and asked to bring their own prayer mats.

Mohammed Khalil of Raza Mosque, Randal Street and Madina Mosque which is located on Oak Street said they had seen numbers decline for weekly Friday prayers.

He also said there was a huge misconception that mosques were full throughout the day, “The reality is that we have seen numbers drop as people are simply staying away.

“On any given day for daily prayers there are only a handful of people who are attending.

“The biggest drop has been during the weekly Jummah (Friday) prayers where capacity has been reduced due to social distancing. Despite this at the Raza Mosque for example at one prayer there were 85-90 attendees when we have a capacity for 120.”

Pre-Covid, Jummah prayers the Raza Mosque would hold up 500 attendees and the Madina Mosque would have 1000 worshippers.

The Madina mosque now has two sittings for Friday prayers with the first hosting 180 people and the second less than 120, whilst the capacity with social distancing is 240.

Khalil said: “We are not having any elders attend the mosque as it is. We are continuing to disinfect the mosque once a week and keeping to strict guidelines but I think there is a lot of scaremongering going on.”

A committee member at Masjid-e-Anisul Islam, Troy Street said they had seen a slight dip in numbers but were pleased that people were still attending.

He said: “Of course there has been a slight decrease due to people self-isolating or being ill but we have not seen that much of change during lockdown.

“We normally would have 30-40 for some daily prayers this is down to 20/30 which is still good.

“We have put extra measures in place now outside the mosque with volunteer marshals not allowing anyone to mix or talk in groups. People are being told to politely move on from the adjoining streets corners and not stop for a chat.”

One leading mosque cleric said there should be consensus on any mosque closures. “There is little point in some mosques closing to congregational prayers as has happened in Pendle. As those people will then simply go another mosque on for Friday prayers.

“At the moment Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) has not advised mosques to close so we are hopeful this will stay the same.”