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Ramadan 2020: Belgium's Muslim community prepares for holy month under lockdown

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Ramadan 2020: Belgium's Muslim community prepares for holy month under lockdown
Copyright  EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP or licensors
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Normally around the month of Ramadan, the Great Mosque of Brussels would be a hive of activity for the Muslim community.

But amid a coronavirus lockdown, the day-long fasts will be broken in isolation.

With measures in place until at least 3 May, mosques will be empty, but imams will record sermons to be broadcast to the community.

“We have asked the Muslim community to respect the rules of confinement, to protect citizens, to protect themselves and also our country," said Salah Echallaoui, vice president of the Executive of the Muslims of Belgium.

He admits that it is sad that people cannot come together to worship, but says that they are encouraging the Muslim community to "keep up the momentum of solidarity that has always been a feature of the month of Ramadan, and also to help those citizens who need it".

Belgian Muslims working on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus, will not be expected to observe strict fasting rules, in order to best serve the community to beat the pandemic.

Lahcene Hammouche, president of the AL-Mouwatin Association, has been working to break down barriers between different communities during Ramadan festivities. For more than fifteen years he has been organising activities between Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities where they share Iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan together.

"This year will, unfortunately, be a little different due to the confinement measures we must respect to avoid spreading the virus," he said.

"This year we will primarily communicate via video conference, and continue to keep the link between our Jewish and Christian friends."

Belgium is set to announce new measures shifting towards a loosening of restrictions on Friday 24 April.