The contributions of Muslims across the UK have been underrepresented in media and political discourse says a new report.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (APPG) report 'Rising to the Challenge: A community’s response to Covid-19’ looks at the impact of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic on Muslim communities.

The report identified ways in which British Muslims have adapted and expanded their charitable activities to navigate the demands brought upon by the pandemic, as well as new initiatives that have evolved (burials, helplines for shielding groups, mutual aid groups) due to the unprecedented measures imposed under lockdown.

The report says that ‘British Muslim responses were often on the front line, responding in every region across all four nations: from mosques becoming mortuaries, food banks, makeshift hospitals, to the deaths and sacrifices of Muslim healthcare workers. However, this was often underrepresented in media and political discourse’.

It adds how the ‘pandemic brought to the fore the huge debt we owe to Muslims and other faith communities who labour quietly and confidently in the service of others.

‘They should be better supported through finance, infrastructure and policies that are comfortable in dealing with religion as an equality characteristic and competently faith-literate’.

The report found how British Muslim Communities responded to Covid-relief efforts in every nation of the United Kingdom.  It highlights 194 examples previously reported by the Muslim Charities Forum and showcases 50 case studies of British Muslim contributions across the UK.

From individual shop owners providing PPE to small mutual-aid groups and community-based initiatives becoming Covid relief centres, delivering food, providing care and essentials to those shielding; Mosques becoming pop-up mortuaries and offering their prayer halls to the NHS.

Mosques were amongst the first to close down during the first wave of the pandemic. In order to protect communities, they closed down even prior to the official lockdown being announced. 

Muslims, like all citizens, have experienced a tumultuous year. With Ramadan, the two Eid festivals and the annual pilgrimage, Hajj, all being affected by various restrictions ranging from large scale national lockdown and travel bans to regional restrictions and the introduction of tiered regulations, Muslim communities have lived their faith rather differently this last year. 

Cancellation of Eid

The report highlighted the deep sense of frustration from some British Muslim communities when Eid was cancelled at the 11th hour from an announcement from the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock on Twitter.

The cross=party report concluded on the cancellation of Eid that, "Despite the existence of a task force to marshal views relating to the use of places of worship, there appears to be little evidence that mosques or faith leaders were consulted on the decision to apply restrictions on the eve of Eid ul-Adha." 

The blaming British Muslim communities for spreading Covid-19

While the government has been quick to galvanise a sense of national solidarity and common feeling of British citizens being ‘in this together’, far right organisations and groups have sought to use the pandemic to further their anti-Muslim agenda and sow discord in local communities. 

One of the recommendations from the report called on, "More work is needed to promote religious literacy in the media to ensure minority groups, especially religious communities, are not stigmatised or scapegoated in coverage that palpably links Muslims to the spread of disease and a breach of public health regulations. 

The report also recommends that ‘More research is needed to determine the causes of higher mortality rates among British Muslim communities, and to investigate how this can be averted in the event of future waves of Covid-19.’ And ‘better data collection on religion and ethnicity is needed to ensure we can fully assess the factors that explain the disproportionate mortality rate experienced in Muslim and minority ethnic communities.’

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said, "The impact of Covid-19 has sadly impacted communities across our nation. Families have lost loved ones far too soon and Muslim communities alongside others have also been impacted hugely by the pandemic.

"The reality of the British Muslim contribution to the first wave of the pandemic was such that across the entire nation, in almost every town and city, where there was a sizeable Muslim community; communities witnessed faith in action - with acts of giving, kindness and supporting communities in their time of need. 

"This report highlights some of the positives during the first wave of the pandemic and also some challenges Muslim communities specifically faced. To save lives in the future, it is important the government implements the findings of the report."

Wes Streeting MP, Labour Co-Chair of the APPG on British Muslims, said: "This report offers a snapshot of the generosity and public-spiritedness of British Muslim communities during the first wave of the pandemic. It underlines the positive role that faith can play in becoming the fourth emergency service in our time of need." 

"The findings of the APPG report also highlight several recommendations and considerations the government needs to implement in order to have better insight and prevent potential deaths and hospitalisations in future waves of a pandemic. 

“One of the most important and urgent steps the government must take is open up communication channels with wide-ranging Muslims communities, which will be particularly important to the success of the vaccine rollout."

Mark Eastwood MP, Conservative, Co-Chair of the APPG on British Muslims, said:  “This report does an excellent job highlighting the work of Muslim community groups across the country throughout the pandemic, including the Zakariya Masjid in Dewsbury. 

“It is a testament to the great sense of community, generosity and compassion of British Muslims, and I am proud to be the representative of so many selfless British Muslims as the Member of Parliament for Dewsbury. “

You can view more on the report here