"Badshahi Mosque Interior" by Zainab Zia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Pakistan’s dangerous capitulation to the religious right on the coronavirus

May 6, 2020

By Madiha Afzal

Perform your ablutions at home. Bring your own prayer mats, place them six feet apart. Wear masks. Use the provided hand sanitizer. No handshakes or hugs allowed. No talking in the mosque. No one over 50 years old can enter. No children allowed.

These guidelines are part of a list of 20 standard operating procedures that Pakistan’s government issued on April 18, ostensibly in consultation with the country’s religious clerics, for mosque congregations during Ramadan. In reality, the government caved in to the demands of clerics, who earlier that week said that they would refuse to limit Ramadan congregations, despite a growing number of covid-19 cases in the country.

In Pakistan, the religious right — an amalgam of Islamist political parties and the ulema, or religious clerics — has functioned as a potent pressure force on the country’s government since its inception. It is doing so amid this covid-19 pandemic as well.

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