Additional spaces for Friday prayers at 10 Singapore mosques as Muis begins pilot project

Congregants checking in using the TraceTogether token at Masjid Maarof at Jurong West St 26. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Ten mosques on Friday (Nov 13) began offering additional spaces for worshippers to perform their congregational prayers as part of a pilot project.

First announced at the start of this month, the move will see the mosques serving 450 worshippers across three sessions every Friday - at 12.45pm, 1.45pm and 2.45pm.

One third of that number or 150 will be split up into three zones of up to 50 people for each session.

Congregants entering the mosques under the pilot must check in using the TraceTogether app or token.

All religious groups have also been allowed to conduct services of up to 100 people since Oct 3, with congregants split into zones of up to 50 each to ensure safe social distancing.

But Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong said on Sept 26 that a pilot of worship sessions of up to 250 participants will be conducted for those that have safely conducted services for 100 people.

Everything was calm and orderly on Friday at the three prayer zones at the Maarof Mosque in Jurong West, one of the 10 mosques under the pilot, as congregants used the TraceTogether app or token to check-in, before entering and performing their prayers.

They had to also have their temperature taken with hands-free scanners, and each zone had several staff members or volunteers on standby to assist.

Before entering, worshippers had to show staff and volunteers stationed outside the mosque that they had secured a slot, which would be in the form of an electronic confirmation slip they would have received after booking online.

All the worshippers had their own mats for prayers to ensure that their face did not come physically into contact with the floor of the mosque when praying. There was no shaking of hands, and many instead opted for the "salam mufti", in which one places the hand on the chest to convey greetings.

After each prayer session, mosque staff were seen cleaning the zones with disinfectant machines and wiping down common touchpoints like railings and pillars.

Systems and commercial officer at a logistics company Abdul Rashid, 44, was one of the worshippers during the first slot at the Maarof mosque. He was impressed by how organised and smooth the process of entering the mosque with TraceTogether was. Before Friday, he had used his identity card to check in at mosques.

"I feel grateful that the slots have been increased to 150 now because it gives more of us a chance to do our prayers," he said.

"Using the TraceTogether took some adjustment, but it is actually okay for me."

The 10 mosques participating in the pilot are Al-Islah, Al-Istighfar and Darul Ghufran in the east, An-Nur, Assyafaah and Yusof Ishak in the north, Angullia and Sultan in the south and Al-Khair and Maarof in the west.

The aim of the pilot by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) is to eventually lift the current limit to 250 people at each session.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, executive chairman of Maarof Mosque Ustaz Rashid Ramli described the ongoing pilot as a good sign, adding that he hopes congregants can continue to download and use the TraceTogether app.

"We hope that with all the safe measures in place, we can ensure that our mosques are places which are safe to come to," he said.

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