LONDON: Far-right activists in the UK are posing as journalists to spread fake news about Muslims breaking coronavirus lockdown restrictions during Ramadan, a prominent British imam has said.
Far-right extremists are exploiting the lockdown “to spread hatred of Muslims,” Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and the government’s adviser on Islamophobia, told The Telegraph newspaper.
“We’ve had reports that people have been going around mosques (in West Yorkshire) pretending to be independent journalists and talking to people, and effectively again trying to gather information and trying to make some footage saying Muslims are still congregating,” said Asim, the imam at Makkah Mosque in the northern city of Leeds.
Churches, mosques and other places of worship have been closed since the lockdown began in March to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. The restrictions have coincided with Muslims celebrating Ramadan.
Under normal circumstances, Muslims would visit their local mosque, fast during the day and share iftar. But while this is not possible, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has urged people to celebrate iftars over online video call software.
There have been cases of social media posts alleging that Muslims are ignoring the rules to gather in the evenings and flout restrictions on funerals.
“It’s extremely disappointing that even during such unprecedented times of national emergency, some people have continued to spread hatred of Muslims and unsubstantiated claims that an increase in coronavirus cases will happen during Ramadan because most Muslims tend to have social gatherings,” the MCB said.
“Some extreme right-wing groups are trying to use the pandemic to create division. So they’re targeting Muslims, in a way which is deplorable … We call on people to stand united and say that such unsubstantiated claims are fake news and should be challenged robustly.”
Asim said Makkah Mosque was closed before the lockdown, but “there are still some people going around and spreading some videos and images to say that Muslims are still congregating — but those images and videos were from well before the pandemic.”