Thousands of devout Pakistani Muslims are claiming “God is with us” and only westerners can die from coronavirus as they brazenly violate social-distancing orders to pray in mosques amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Sabir Durrani, 52, who prays nearly every day at mosque in the central Pakistani city of Multan, is among the throngs of people flouting government orders issued last month that bans religious congregations of five or more people in order to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

“Our prayer leader told us that the virus can’t infect us the way it does Western people,” Durrani told Reuters in a report published Monday, adding a dozen of more men are typically in attendance at the mosque and none of wear face masks.

Durrani said the prayer leader “said we wash our hands and we wash our face five times a day before we say our prayers, and the infidels don’t, so we need not worry. God is with us.”

As of Monday morning the virus had infected a total of 5,374 people in Pakistan and killed 93 in in the country, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 60 percent of coronavirus cases in Pakistan so far have been tied to Muslims returning from pilgrimages in the Middle Easter and followers of Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat, Reuters reported.

It’s anticipated that the country’s coronavirus caseload will increase as the number of those attending congregational prayers held in mosques on Fridays – the Islamic Sabbath – will likely rise next month during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, the news outlet noted.

The Council of Islamic Ideology has called on clerics and the public to follow the government’s orders aimed to stem the spread of the virus, but several priests and local leaders have openly opposed the ban.

As hundreds of people gathered for a funeral in the country last week, a local leader of a religious party told the crowd that the government’s orders to put a limit on congregations were not right.

“If you do this, we will be forced to think that mosques are being deserted on America’s instructions,” Mufti Kafayatullah told the crowd, according to Reuters. “We’re ready to give our lives, but not ready to desert our mosques.”

In Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi police were attacked for the second week in a row as they attempted to break up prayers at a mosque, but in other Pakistani cities authorities were reportedly overlooking the defiant gatherings at mosques.

According to Reuters, police filed 88 cases against mosque administrations in Karachi on Mar. 27 and arrested 38 people for flouting restrictions on Friday congregations, but a day later the charges were dropped and the locals were released.

“I think it’s partly appeasement and partly the fact that Pakistan’s governments and politics are locked permanently in an electoral framework in which they don’t want to lose support of the religious elite and religious proletariat,” Pakistani author and defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a special assistant to Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan, told the news outlet that most mosques were cooperating with the government.

But, Akbar added, “This is a sensitive matter, we don’t want to impose it using a stick. And even if we wanted to, there aren’t enough sticks to implement it across Pakistan.”



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