Europe”s Muslims will begin marking Ramadan on Tuesday evening, religious authorities from various countries said.
For the second consecutive year, Islam’s holiest month will be celebrated under the shadow of pandemic restrictions as Europe battles a deadly third wave of coronavirus fueled by new variants.
Ramadan, a pillar of Islam, is marked by intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts.
In France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, the 7 pm nationwide curfew means nighttime prayers at the mosque known as Taraweeh will be impossible.
Religious authorities in the country have strongly advised against gatherings outside the household for Iftars, festive evening meals that follow fasting.
They also said that vaccination was not considered as “nutritious” and that the injection of a coronavirus vaccine dose would therefore not “invalidate the fast.”
The Paris mosque distributed a flyer to the faithful advocating for vaccination. “Vaccination is an act of life preservation recommended in Islam,” it read.
Similar recommendations were issued by Islamic authorities in other European countries, notably the UK and Belgium.
Police presence in France
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin asked police to “strengthen vigilance around Muslim places of worship, particularly during this period of religious holidays, on the eve of Ramadan.”
The request comes after anti-Muslim inscriptions were found over the weekend on the walls of an Islamic cultural centre in the northwestern city of Rennes.
Between five and six million practising and non-practising Muslims live in France, according to estimates, meaning Islam is the second religion in the country after Christianism.
Elsewhere in Europe
In the UK, where lockdown was eased following a decline in infections, “restrictions will be more relaxed compared to 2020,” said the Muslim Council of Britain.
However “usual practices normally observed such as going to the mosque for iftar and visiting friends and family indoors will sadly still not be possible this year,” the Council said.
According to national statistics sources from 2018, an estimated 3.37 million Muslims live in the UK, mainly in England.
For Spain’s 2 million Muslims, Ramadan celebrations will depend greatly on the restrictions adopted by each region.
The country’s Islamic authorities issued recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission during Ramadan, including by limiting time spent in places of worship to a minimum.
In Belgium, where an estimated 800,000 Muslims live, attendance in mosques and other places of worship will be limited to 15 people.
In Germany, which is home to 4 to 5 million Muslims, mosques are allowed to open provided social distancing rules are respected.