'High surge' in users leads to technical issues on Muis booking site for prayers at mosques

Muis said the problem arose from "a very high surge" of people trying to access the website. PHOTO: MUIS WEBSITE

SINGAPORE - All prayer slots for this Friday's (June 26) prayer sessions, the first in about three months, have been booked, announced the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) as it acknowledged technical issues in its new mosque booking system.

"When the booking system was opened this morning, there was an overwhelmingly high number of attempts to book at the same time, which resulted in very slow web traffic," said Muis on Facebook on Wednesday.

"Nevertheless, we continued to be able to receive successful bookings."

The council said that after the first 40 minutes of the booking system coming online, the initial very high surge in booking attempts subsided. Web traffic was then able to speed up and booking registrations could be processed more quickly.

From June 26, Muslims will be able to return to most mosques here for congregational prayers for the first time in about three months.

Each session has a cap of 50 congregants, who must have made a booking via Muis' platform.

The platform, developed by the council and announced on Sunday, is meant to limit the number of people who can attend congregational prayers. This is to ensure safe distancing measures are adhered to, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The slots will be given out on a first-come first-served basis, and the booking of these slots started with 66 out of 70 mosques here.

Muis acknowledged earlier on Wednesday that there was some "difficulty" accessing its new mosque booking system, and called for Muslims here to keep trying to get a slot to perform their prayers.

This comes after feedback regarding frustrations using the platform, which allows congregants to reserve prayer spaces for daily and Friday congregational prayers.

Muis said on Wednesday that while all slots for Friday prayers on June 26 have been snapped up, limited slots were still available for July 3 and July 10.

The mosques that Muslims can book prayer slots for will provide two half-hour prayer sessions every Friday, with a half-hour interval between the two sessions to ensure safe crowd management.

Each person will be allowed to book only one slot for Friday prayers every three weeks, which Muis said will allow more worshippers to perform their Friday prayers.

But after the platform went live at 9am on Wednesday, many found it difficult to secure a booking.

A 33-year-old freelancer who wanted to be known as Mr Ashraf said he could not get the platform to load properly. When the platform did finally work, he did not have the option to choose his preferred slot for his prayers.

"When it did load, only the second one was available, (but) I have work meetings around that time."

Commenting on Muis's Facebook post on Wednesday, some netizens complained that they managed to secure slots for their prayers but only after waiting for the site to load or after making repeated tries.

Others said that while they had gone through the booking process, they did not receive a confirmation about the booking and wondered whether they could proceed with going for the prayer session.

Muis said on Wednesday that its system is in the process of sending out confirmation e-mails for successful bookings and that congregants could also take a screenshot of their successful booking as proof of entry for the mosques.

There were however congregants who said that the technical glitches were to be expected, and called for others to be patient and not spread false rumours such as claims that Muis was prioritising its own staff to get prayer slots.

Facebook user Muhammad Heikal Amir said in a comment that it is not uncommon for people to have trouble assessing booking sites when there is overwhelming demand.

"Genuinely embarrassed by some of the comments here," he wrote, adding that comments in the thread that insinuated those who have successfully booked slots are Muis internal staff are "downright shameful".

Muis said that it would continuously review its systems and services to provide "a better experience for the community" and thanked everyone who had provided their feedback to help it improve.

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