Montreal Muslims prepare for unusual Ramadan as curfew cuts evening prayer

An Muslim man reads the holy book of Quran at a mosque during the second week of Ramadan in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, June 29, 2015. (AP / Tatan Syuflana)

Muslims in Montreal and Laval are preparing for an unusual Ramadan this year, as Quebec’s 8 p.m. curfew keeps people indoors after sundown, instead of at the mosque for evening prayer.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, running from April 13 to May 12. During that period, Muslims all over the world partake in day-long fasts, with many attending mosques after sundown to pray.

Quebec’s curfew is getting earlier on Sunday, returning to 8 p.m. for Montreal and Laval. As Quebecers prepare for evenings indoors, faith leaders are calling on followers to be patient.

“[Places of worship] are good for the community. We don’t want to turn them into places where people get sick,” said Imam Ali Falih Altaie, director of Fondation Internationale Azzahra.

“People love to go to the mosque and pray. This might be the first time in their lives that they have to stay home,” he said.

“We ask God for the good of the society, not just for ourselves.”

Another imam told CTV News the effects of missing evening prayers shouldn’t be underestimated, calling the situation “a disaster.”

“These are essential services,” said Salam Elmenyawi, president of The Muslim Council of Montreal.

“[Quebec has] labeled them unessential. To some, spirituality is more important than food. People will get sick, in their mental health.”

SHIFTING RULES FOR GATHERING

This will be the second Ramadan to take place during the pandemic. Over the last year, rules around gatherings in Quebec have shifted significantly.

In late March, the province loosened restrictions to allow gatherings of up to 250 people in places of worship. But, in recent days, as highly contagious coronavirus variants drive outbreaks across Quebec, that count was cut down to just 25.

READ MORE: Here's what's open and closed under Quebec's lockdown measures

Last year, several Ramadan events moved online. This year, that may once again be the only option, but that makes another important part of Ramadan nearly impossible.

“Its also a question of generosity; inviting your friends and family,” said Canadian Muslim Forum President Samer Majzoub.

“Homeless people also come to mosques to share a meal.”

Majzoub says he wishes the Quebec government would’ve given more consideration to Quebecers’ religious obligations.

“Unfortunately, it’s the second year its like this, which takes a large toll on the community,” said Majzoub.

During Ramadan, he says, people who may live a more secular life turn out to mosques.

“People who aren’t as actively practicing, they all start praying,” he said.

Majzoub says in-person Ramadan events can be done safely.

During regular prayer, he says,“everyone comes in silently. The imam is the only one to speak for the sermon. Everyone is wearing masks.”

“We can invite [lawmakers] to come see how it is done.”

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