‘As if God doesn’t want us,’ millions of Arabs face coronavirus impact

As Mecca and Medina empty of Muslim worshippers, Arab regimes find themselves beseeching their people to stay home.

General view of Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, which is almost empty of worshippers, after Saudi authority suspended umrah amid the fear of coronavirus outbreak, at Muslim holy city of Mecca (photo credit: YASSER BAKHSH/ REUTERS)
General view of Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, which is almost empty of worshippers, after Saudi authority suspended umrah amid the fear of coronavirus outbreak, at Muslim holy city of Mecca
(photo credit: YASSER BAKHSH/ REUTERS)
The Friday prayers at the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi-Arabia, had an unusually emotional tone last week when preacher Ahmed Ben Talen Hamid reached verse 33 of the 8th Sura in the Quran. Called The Spoils of War (Al-Anfal), which speaks about God not seeking vengeance.  
 
“But Allah would not punish them while you, [O Muhammad], are among them”, he wept, ”and Allah would not punish them while they seek forgiveness.”  
 
Shockingly, the mosque erected by the prophet of Islam – and is the second holiest to Islam after the Kaaba in Mecca – is nearly empty after Saudi authorities forbade mass prayers in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus among the believers.  
 
The pictures of the holy sites without pilgrims honoring them aired across the Islamic world, leading a friend of Maariv reporter Jack Khoury to write to him that it is “as if God does not want us there.”  
 
Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya addressed Gaza Strip residents and begged them to stay at home to curb the spread of COVID-19.  
 
“To be cautious is a religious obligation and the prophet himself said it,” he said, “look at the nations that did not treat the virus seriously, it killed hundreds of their people on the first day.”  
 
He went on to ask: “Is there anything more difficult than cancelling the Friday prayers? Of telling people not to celebrate their joys in weddings? Yes, these things are hard, but there are harder things.”  
 
He went on to warn that this “bitterness” must be endured or else a much harsher bitterness would follow.  
 
To ease the damage caused to its economy, Egypt announced a series of tax breaks.
Two Egyptian army generals reportedly died of coronavirus recently; so far 26 Egyptians have died from COVID-19 and 456 cases have been confirmed.
 
Khouri went on to slam the Israeli embassy in Egypt for posting on social media an interview with former Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny, who said that there is a difference between knowing the culture of the Israeli people and normalization of ties with Israel.  
 
“Why should we not read their novels or watch their theater plays?” He asked during a television interview.  
 
Khouri goes on to remind the reader that the same Hosny said he’d be happy to burn Israeli books that were placed in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a cultural institute meant to be a recreation of the famous great library of the city. It is thought by many that this statement cost him the position of UNESCO General Secretary in 2019.  
 
“Hosny is not an artist,” Khoury wrote, “and he never was; he is a slave of his master,” meaning that when those in power were against Israel, he also wa; now when the attitudes are different, he is singing another tune.  
 
Egyptian films were once aired on Israeli television each Friday despite the two nations being hostile to one another. The films were loved by both Jewish and Arab Israelis and led to the release of the 2015 film Arab Movie by Eyal Sagui Bizawe.
The film claims that the policy was meant to help Palestinians ease their relationships with the Israeli state they found themselves in but backfired, leading Jewish viewers to demand Hebrew subtitled be added so they can understand the movies.  
        
                  


Tags Islam