After months of being shut down, the Lagos State Government has approved the full reopening of worship centres in the state.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, announced this during a briefing in the state on Saturday.
According to him, churches are now allowed to observe their mid-week services, while the mosques are also allowed to carry out their five times a day prayer routine, with strict compliance to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We must not forget that the coronavirus pandemic is still very much with us, and we must, therefore, strive to prioritize the safety of all our children, teachers, parents, and the entire society,” the governor said.
Before now, the state had allowed for a gradual re-opening of places of worship as lockdowns eased.
With the full re-opening now, the governor has urged Lagosians to continue to act responsibly and maintain the required levels of hygiene.
Some other parts of the world have witnessed a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and rising possibilities of “hard lockdowns”, which according to Governor Sanwo-Olu may become inevitable for Nigerians if caution is not applied.
“Let me make it clear that if we do not continue to maintain our guard, and sustain the adherence to all required protocols and guidelines, we will find ourselves in a situation where fresh lockdowns are inevitable,” he warned.
“The only way to avoid this is to continue to act responsibly: maintain the required levels of hygiene, through regular handwashing and use of sanitizers, wear masks in all public places, avoid non-essential public gatherings, and maintain the prescribed levels of physical distancing at all times”.
The total infections in the country have now risen to 56,956, with 48,305 patients recovered and 1,094 deaths recorded.
At the onset of the virus in Nigeria, Lagos became the epicenter, gapping other states with its case load despite frantic efforts to curb the spread.
However, in recent times, other states such as Plateau have started to witness a surge with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 stating that it might become the new epicenter in the country.
Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound — the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia — reopened on Sunday after being closed for more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens of worshippers in protective masks were let into the compound before the first prayers of the day, held in a cool and windy night.
Chanting “God is greatest, we will protect Al-Aqsa with our soul and blood”, the group gathered in front of the large wooden doors were welcomed by mosque director Omar al-Kiswani, who thanked them for their patience.
It followed a fraught day in annexed East Jerusalem, where the compound is located.
Israeli police on Saturday shot dead a disabled Palestinian they mistakenly thought was armed, prompting furious condemnation from the Palestinians.
The religious site, which houses Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, had closed its doors in March as part of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven there, and the site has often been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is also the holiest site to Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount and believe it to be the location of two biblical temples — the second of which was destroyed in 70 AD.
On the first day of the Eid holiday, scuffles had broken out between Israeli police and Palestinians as worshippers tried to break through barriers to enter the compound.
Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, the site is under the custodianship of neighbouring Jordan, which controlled the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, up until occupation by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.
With the number of COVID-19 cases declining, in recent days both Israel and the Palestinian territories have eased restrictions.
Israel has reported more than 17,000 cases, including 284 deaths.
Fewer than 500 infections and just three deaths have been confirmed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which have a combined population of around five million.
Following the deadly shooting on Saturday, the Palestinian leadership demanded that whoever killed the man be brought before the International Criminal Court.
The incident happened in the alleys of the walled Old City near Lions’ Gate, an access point mainly used by Palestinians.
There have been fears that Israeli plans to take advantage of a controversial green light from US President Donald Trump to annex swathes of the West Bank could stoke further violence.
Some Senegalese mosques opened their doors on Friday after the government eased coronavirus restrictions, but others judged the rate of infection too high and stayed shut.
Senegalese President Macky Sall said this week that public prayers could resume in the West African country, provided that mosques obey social-distancing rules.
More than 90 percent of Senegal is Muslim and most of the faithful follow Sufi brotherhoods, which retain considerable influence in the nation of 16 million people.
In the seaside capital Dakar on Friday, according to AFP journalists, thousands of worshippers flocked to Massalikul Jinaan mosque — which is one of West Africa’s largest and belongs to the powerful Mouride brotherhood.
Mosque spokesman Mor Daga Sylla told AFP that religious authorities had insisted the faithful wash their hands and keep one metre away from one another.
“We were uncompromising,” he said.
A similar scene played out in the Dakar suburb of Mbao, where water and soap were placed in front of the local mosque, and the majority of worshippers wore facemasks.
Inside, the mosque’s imam, Pape Moussa Seck, preached a sermon calling the coronavirus a “divine ordeal” caused by religious infractions such as “the indecent clothing of young girls, assaults and murders”.
Senegalese authorities have recorded 2,310 cases to date, including 25 fatalities.
The numbers are low compared to virus-stricken Europe and the United States.
But as with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that it is ill equipped to handle a large outbreak.
Some religious institutions in Senegal have remained closed because of the still-present virus threat.
Major mosques in the capital, such as the Dakar Grand Mosque and Cheikh Oumar Foutiyou mosque, said this week that they would not open again, for example, citing health risks.
The Catholic Church in Senegal similarly said this week that masses would not resume.
Despite the easing of restrictions on prayers, other anti-virus measures remain in place.
Senegal has shut schools and borders, restricted travel and imposed a night-time curfew in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
A suicide bomber targeted a mosque in southwestern Pakistan during evening prayers Friday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 19 others, officials said.
The blast took place in a satellite town of Quetta, the province’s main city. Debris and shattered glass littered the scene.
Fida Mohammad, who was attending evening prayers, said about 60 people were present at the time of the attack on the mosque, which is located in a densely populated area.
The explosion ripped through the front row of worshippers seconds after the prayer began, he told AFP.
“It was a powerful blast, people were screaming and running here and there — many people were injured because of the stampede,” Mohammad said.
Mohammad Waseem, a doctor at Quetta’s Sandeman hospital, confirmed that 15 victims had died.
The police chief of Balochistan province, Mohsin Hassan Butt, also confirmed the death toll, telling AFP: “Nineteen people are still taking medical treatment, the condition of three to four is critical.”
A police officer was among the dead, he added.
Provincial home minister Zia Ullah Langu told reporters that investigations by bomb disposal officers indicated that a suicide bomber carried out the attack.
A spokesman for the provincial government, Liaqat Shahwani, confirmed a suicide bomber was to blame.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE intelligence group.
A Pakistani military spokesman said on Twitter that paramilitary personnel has reached the mosque and cordoned off the area.
“A joint search operation with police is in progress, injured being evacuated to hospitals,” said the spokesman, Asif Ghafoor.
The attack comes two days after a motorcycle bomb targeting a paramilitary force vehicle killed two people and wounded 14 others at a busy market in Quetta.
– Volatile area –
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran.
It is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies and attacks are frequent, even as the number of violent incidents has significantly dropped elsewhere in Pakistan.
Militants still retain the ability to carry out attacks, including on major urban centres and tightly-guarded targets, and analysts have long warned that Pakistan has not yet tackled the root causes of extremism.
Balochistan is key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.
CPEC seeks to connect China’s restive western Xinjiang region with the Pakistani port of Gwadar, giving the world’s second-largest economy access to the Arabian Sea.
Two people were injured on Monday when shots were fired near a mosque in Bayonne in southwest France, police said, adding the suspected gunman has been arrested.
The man was arrested near his home after the incident that also involved a small explosion, presumably from a petrol can set on fire near the place of worship on Monday afternoon.
According to the police authorities, the suspect is an 84-year-old man who shot and seriously wounded two other men in their 70s.
The octogenarian opened fire when the two men, aged 74 and 78, came upon him trying to set fire to the mosque’s door on Monday afternoon, the police department said in a statement.
The victims were brought to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, while the suspected shooter was later arrested near his home.
The mosque has been cordoned off for investigations.
The incident came just hours after President Emmanuel Macron had urged France’s Muslim community to step up the fight against “separatism” in the wake of the latest attack by an Islamist radical on French soil, in which a police employee stabbed four colleagues to death.
There have been intermittent attacks on mosques in France since 2007, when 148 Muslim headstones in a national military cemetery near Arras were smeared with anti-Islamic slurs and a pig’s head was placed among them.
In June this year, a gunman wounded an imam in a shooting at a mosque in the northwestern city of Brest, but police ruled out a terror motive.
In March, workers building a mosque in the small southwestern town of Bergerac found a pig’s head and animal blood at the entrance to the site — two weeks after a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a shooting spree at two mosques.
Mosques were also targeted after the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in 2015 by Islamist radicals. Dozens of mosques were attacked by arsonists, others with firebombs, grenades or gunfire.
Armed men stormed a mosque in the volatile north of Burkina Faso as worshippers were at prayer, killing 16 people and sending residents fleeing, security sources and locals said Saturday.
The attack on the Grand Mosque in the town of Salmossi on Friday evening underscores the difficulties faced by the country in its battle against jihadists.
One source said 13 people died on the spot and three succumbed to their injuries later. Two of the wounded are in critical condition.
“Since this morning, people have started to flee the area,” one resident from the nearby town of Gorom-Gorom said.
He said there was a “climate of panic despite military reinforcements” that were deployed after the deadly attack.
Although hit by jihadist violence, many Burkinabes oppose the presence of foreign troops — notably from former colonial ruler France — on their territory.
On Saturday, a crowd of about 1,000 people marched in the capital Ouagadougou “to denounce terrorism and the presence of foreign military bases in Africa.”
“Terrorism has now become an ideal pretext for installing foreign military bases in our country,” said Gabin Korbeogo, one of co-organisers of the march.
“The French, American, Canadian, German and other armies have set foot in our sub-region, saying they want to fight terrorism. But despite this massive presence… the terrorist groups… are growing stronger.”
Until 2015, the poor West African country Burkina Faso was largely spared violence that hit Mali and then Niger, its neighbours to the north.
But jihadists — some linked to Al-Qaeda, others to the so-called Islamic State group — started infiltrating the north, then the east, and then endangered the southern and western borders of the landlocked country.
Combining guerrilla hit-and-run tactics with road mines and suicide bombings, the insurgents have killed nearly 600 people, according to a toll compiled by AFP.
Civil society groups put the number at more than 1,000, with attacks no taking place on almost a daily basis.
Burkina’s defence and security forces are badly-equipped, poorly trained and have shown themselves to be unable to put a halt to the increasing violence.
France has a force of 200 in Burkina Faso but also intervenes frequently as part of its regional Barkhane operation.
Almost 500,000 people have fled their homes because of the violence, according to the UN refugee agency, which has warned of a humanitarian crisis affecting 1.5 million people.
Almost 3,000 schools have closed, and the impact on an overwhelmingly rural economy is escalating, disrupting trade and markets.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has described as unfortunate the ‘false Information’ being circulated that the State Government demolished a Mosque in Port Harcourt, saying that the report was planted by mischief makers to create disaffection.
Addressing journalists at the location on Biambo Street Off, School Road by Mami Market Junction, near Rainbow Estate on Monday., Governor Wike said there was no Mosque on ground, hence nothing was demolished.
He said: “I received calls from several prominent Nigerians 8on the fake news being circulated online. I have come here with Reporters and you can see there was no Mosque here.
“It is most unfortunate that fickle minded persons will claim that a Mosque was demolished at this place, when no Mosque existed here. The story was concocted by mischief makers to score cheap points”.
Governor Wike explained that some persons started erecting illegal foundation at the disputed land, even though they had no approval to embark on any construction work.
“They came here to erect illegal structure. There was no approval from the State Government for any structure to be erected here.
“The persons who started the foundation had already dragged the State Government to court on the disputed land. The Rivers State Government won the case. What they attempted to do was to start the illegal construction to tie the hands of the State Government “, he said.
The Governor urged the Muslim Community in Rivers State to show him where a Mosque was demolished in the State. He advised them not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to peddle false stories against the Rivers State Government..
Governor Wike said that the State Government operates within the rule of law. He said that the State Government will not be distracted by the illegal circulation of fake reports.
He stated that several Mosques constructed on the approval of the State Government exist across Port Harcourt and other major towns of Rivers State, without the State Government demolishing them.
“The government gave them notice not to do anything on the land. But they went ahead with the illegal foundation and the relevant agency stopped them.
“Why would want to bring down any Mosque , when there are other Mosques across the State? What is the Special interest on this one?
Support is growing in Germany for a “mosque tax” to make Islamic institutions less dependent on potentially anti-democratic or “radical” foreign funding sources, a media report said Sunday.
The federal government sees it as “a possible path”, according to an answer to a parliamentary query, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.
Several of Germany’s 16 states had also signalled support in principle for the idea which would mirror Germany’s voluntary Christian “church tax”, the rnewspaper said.
Concern has grown in Germany about the influence of foreign funding sources on mosques for the country’s estimated five million Muslims, who hail mostly from Turkey and Arab countries.
Some 900 mosques in Germany are run by the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (Ditib), under the authority of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Its imams are paid by the Turkish state, and the group has come under scrutiny with some of its members suspected of spying on Turkish dissidents living in Germany.
At the height of a bitter row between Germany and Turkey in mid-2017, two German ministers warned in a Spiegel Online commentary that Erdogan’s “dangerous ideologies must not be imported to Germany via certain mosques.”
In other cases, some mosques have come under police scrutiny or been closed for preaching radical and militant Islamist ideas.
Welt am Sonntag said that, in the newspaper’s own survey, several states had affirmed that mosque communities in Germany should be able to finance themselves.
The interior ministry of the regional state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had said it was open to “mosque financing based on the church model” to reduce the foreign influence, including “the danger of possible radicalisation”.
A spokesman for the interior ministry of Baden-Wuerttemberg state had also pointed to the threat of outside influence “on theological content and political opinion”.
“In the worst case”, the spokesman had told the newspaper, this included “radical Islamist or anti-democratic content or aspirations”.
Indonesia’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by a woman sentenced to 18 months in jail under the country’s controversial blasphemy law for complaining about the volume of a mosque’s call to prayer.
Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, was found guilty of insulting Islam for asking her neighbourhood mosque in Medan, on Sumatra island, to lower its sound system because it was too loud and “hurt” her ears.
In a decision posted to its website Monday, the Supreme Court said that it had rejected her appeal, but did not elaborate further.
Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, is officially pluralist with six major religions recognised, including Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. Freedom of expression is supposed to be guaranteed by law.
But criticising religion — particularly Islam, which is followed by nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million citizens — can land offenders in jail.
Meiliana’s comments more than two years ago triggered riots that saw angry Muslim mobs ransack Buddhist temples.
Some ethnic Chinese in the area fled in fear.
The case fuelled fears that Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim group, said the woman’s comments should not have been considered blasphemous.
Rights groups have long campaigned against the nation’s blasphemy laws, which they say are frequently misused to target minorities.
Last year Jakarta’s former governor — the city’s first Christian leader of Chinese descent — was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.
There are hundreds of thousands of mosques across the Southeast Asian archipelago nation, with the five-times-a-day call to prayer heard everywhere in the biggest cities and smallest towns.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla made a plea in 2015 for places of worship to turn down the volume slightly to placate nearby residents.
A sledgehammer-wielding man was seen smashing windows at two mosques in Britain’s second city Birmingham and three more have been similarly vandalised overnight, the police said Thursday.
Counter-terrorism officers are investigating attacks on the mosques in different areas in the central English city, West Midlands Police said in a statement.
The force added the incidents were “being treated as linked”.
“We don’t know the motive for last night’s attacks,” said Chief Constable Dave Thompson in a statement.
“The force and the counter terrorism unit are working side-by-side to find whoever is responsible.”
Officers were first alerted in the early hours of Thursday to reports of a man smashing windows with a sledgehammer at one of the places of worship, police said.
Following reports of a similar attack at another mosque in a nearby neighbourhood, officers launched targeted patrols and discovered “further damage” at two other sites.
A fifth mosque later reported that windows had been smashed.
“Forensic officers are working to identify evidence, and CCTV is being examined,” the West Midlands force added.
Some 22 percent of the Birmingham population described themselves as Muslim in the 2011 census.
British national police chiefs last week announced officers were providing “reassurance patrols” around mosques in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s deadly gun rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Anti-racism groups have warned that Islamophobia is on the rise in Britain and spurring a spike in far-right activity in the country.
A report released last month by the Hope Not Hate charity cited a poll which found more than a third of Britons see Islam as “generally a threat to the British way of life”.
In another recent incident, Mohammed Mahmoud — an imam who won praise for shielding the perpetrator of a 2017 deadly terror attack against a north London mosque — reported he was spat at and abused this week.
Mahmoud said he was targeted Monday while returning home from a solidarity event for the New Zealand massacre with other religious leaders, as well as interior minister Sajid Javid and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 dead Friday, with one gunman — identified as an Australian extremist — apparently live streaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city.
In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying it marked “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
“From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned,” she said, adding that in addition to the dead another 20 people were seriously injured.
The gunman at one mosque was an Australian-born citizen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Sydney, describing him as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.
It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved, but Ardern said three men had been taken into custody.
Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were also found and neutralised by the military, police said.
A Palestinian man who was in one of the mosques said he saw someone being shot in the head.
“I heard three quick shots, then after about 10 seconds, it started again. It must have been an automatic — no one could pull a trigger that quick,” the man, who did not wish to be named, told AFP.
“Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood,” he said, adding that he joined the fleeing crowd and managed to escape.
Local media reported at least nine people were dead.
Video and documents circulating online — but not officially confirmed — suggested the shooter had streamed his attack on Facebook Live.
AFP has examined the footage, which has subsequently been taken down. Journalists experienced in verification techniques said it appeared to be genuine.
New Zealand police described it as “extremely distressing” and urged web users not to share it.
A manifesto had also been posted online on accounts linked to the same Facebook page, suggesting the attack was racially motivated.
A number of pictures were posted to a social media account of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.
Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes.
An ashen-faced Ardern told reporters the attacks had been “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”.
“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” she said.
Forty-one of those slain were at the Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch, police said. Seven more were killed at the Linwood Ave mosque, three of them outside the building. It is unclear where the remaining victim died.
The two mosques are about five kilometers apart. It was not clear if the same gunman was involved at both sites.
One witness told stuff.co.nz he was praying when he heard shooting — and then saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled.
Another man said he saw children being shot.
“There were bodies all over,” he said.
An eyewitness told Radio New Zealand that he heard shots fired and four people were lying on the ground, with “blood everywhere”.
Police warned Muslims all over the country not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand”. Friday is Islam’s holy day.
Christchurch city council offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally nearby.
The Bangladesh cricket team — which had been in Christchurch for a test match against New Zealand that was later cancelled — all escaped without injury.
A spokesman said the attack happened as some of the players got off a team bus and were about to enter the mosque.
“They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,” he told AFP.
Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally ill man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana.
However, anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.
Christchurch, a relatively small city in the south of New Zealand, hit global headlines in 2011 when it was struck by a deadly earthquake.
Dozens of people died and the city’s historic cathedral was toppled in the disaster.
A grenade attack on a mosque in the troubled southern Philippines killed two people early Wednesday, authorities said, just days after a deadly Catholic cathedral bombing and a vote backing Muslim self-rule in the region.
The blast tore through the building as the victims were sleeping in the predawn darkness on the insurgency-plagued island of Mindanao, which is home to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.
Blood-streaked prayer mats and shattered glass could be seen on the floor inside the mosque where heavily armed security forces were standing guard, footage from the scene showed.
The blast came as the Catholic-majority nation was on high alert after a cathedral bombing claimed 21 lives at Sunday mass in an assault claimed by the Islamic State.
Two people were killed and four others wounded in the mosque attack in Zamboanga City, authorities said, adding they had no indication so far it was retaliation for the cathedral bombing.
“We’re still looking at it, but we have not found any connection,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters. “In the past when churches were bombed… there were no revenge attacks.”
Authorities have not publicly identified any suspects and no one has claimed responsibility for the mosque attack.
‘Pray for peace’
Security forces are also hunting for the bombers behind the cathedral assault on the overwhelmingly Muslim island of Jolo, which security forces initially said was not a suicide bombing.
However, on Tuesday President Rodrigo Duterte contradicted them saying one of the bombers had blown himself up outside the cathedral.
On Wednesday Lorenzana appeared to walk back the president’s comments, saying: “The final conclusion is not there yet. It’s still being investigated.”
The probe was zeroing in a group tied to the notorious Islamist kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Police said they tried to arrest one of the suspects on Tuesday, but he got away and an armed man was shot dead by officers in the process.
The attacks have cast a shadow over hopes that voters’ decisive push to give Muslims in the south more control over their own affairs would help quell long-running separatist violence.
Rebels and the government in Manila have expressed hope the new so-called Bangsamoro area will finally draw the investment needed to pull the region out of the brutal poverty that makes it a hotspot for recruiting radicals.
However, hardline factions aligned with IS were not part of the decades-long peace process with the nation’s largest separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, that culminated January 21 with the resounding approval of a new Muslim led-region in the south.
Jolo, which is home to hardline Islamist factions, is the only area in the southern Philippines that voted against the Bangsamoro.
The grenade attack on Wednesday drew immediate condemnation from authorities.
“There is no redeeming such blasphemous murder. It is the highest form of cowardice and obscenity to attack people who at prayer,” said regional leader Mujiv Hataman.
“We call on people of all faiths… to come together to pray for peace.”