Coronavirus: ISIS criticizes Muslim leaders for closing mosques as preventive measure

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ISIS is criticizing senior Muslim scholars for closing mosques as a preventative measure against the spread of the coronavirus, the group said in a recording released Thursday.

“Those who sided with the shutdown [of mosques] are a group associated with government entities…” ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi said. “[Coronavirus] is a pretense to shut down mosques…we have evidence that this is the main reason.”

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Controversial Kuwaiti imam Hakem al-Mutayri echoed the sentiment, saying the National Assembly in Kuwait should be investigated for its decision to close mosques, in a post on Twitter.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, senior Muslim scholars have urged worshippers to heed medical and government guidelines, to suspend mosque services and activities, and to pray at home.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL), called on communities to follow “all health guidelines” during the crisis and said the temporary closure of mosques in some countries across the Islamic world is considered a “religious duty” in light of the pandemic.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh asked Muslims to pray at home during Ramadan, and the Saudi Arabian government suspended mosque services.

Meanwhile ISIS issued its own preventative measures against COVID-19 to its followers in mid-March.

ISIS fighters should “stay away from the land of the epidemic,” the group said in its March newsletter, according to Homeland Security Today. The group also advised its followers to “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing.”

Exploiting the pandemic

The UN human rights chief accused ISIS earlier this month of taking advantage of the pandemic to step up violence on civilians.

ISIS appears “to view the global focus on the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to regroup and inflict violence on the population” in Syria, Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

ISIS gunmen executed 11 people during two attacks on a desert highway in eastern Syria in mid-May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 10 Iraqi militiamen were killed by ISIS fighters on May 2 in a coordinated attack near the Iraqi city of Samarra, according to security officials.

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