SINGAPORE - The Muslim community in Singapore supports the decision to close all mosques in the country in a move to stop the spread of the coronavirus, said Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Monday (Mar 16), when elaborating on the additional preventive steps that are being taken.
He announced at a press conference that when the mosques reopen, there will be changes to the religious practices during this period of the virus outbreak.
Two sessions, not one, of Friday prayers will be held and the change will be tried out at four mosques.
They are: Maarof mosque in Jurong West, Mujahidin mosque in Queenstown, Muhajirin mosque in Bishan and An-Nur mosque in Woodlands.
"We want to practice this in four mosques first. As we learn how to operationalise this, we will do it in more mosques," said Mr Masagos, who is also the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.
He also said all congregational prayers and other mosque activities will be limited to 30 minutes, and congregants will be spaced out further from one another.
Contact-tracing will also be instituted in mosques to track congregants who visit them, he added. Muis is exploring technological solutions on how to do it.
All 70 mosques will stay closed until March 26, beyond the initial five-day closure implemented last Friday to clean them after an infected group had visited them.
Several Singaporeans had got the bug after they attended a mass religious gathering at a mosque in Malaysia.
At the press conference, Mr Masago noted the Muslim community has been supportive of the mosque closure.
He said: "Last week, when we closed the mosques, the support from our community has been quite overwhelming. They understand why we had to do this, and they know why we're doing this."
Many Muslims, however, are concerned about the lack of the azan, or call to prayer, that would usually play from mosques five times a day, he noted.
Hence, mosques will resume the azan from Tuesday (March 17), he said, adding that it will be adapted with a call to the community to do their prayers at home.
The azan over the radio will be similarly adjusted, he said.
Mr Masagos said from feedback, Muslims had found "the silence in the mosque unbearable, even though they are not praying in a mosque".
"Therefore we will be allowing the mosque to do the azan calls five times a day, although during this azan call there is a modification to call them to do their prayers at home."
While this is the first time the practice is implemented in Singapore, he noted other countries have done so.