FARGO — In a precautionary move against the coronavirus threat, mosques in Fargo and Moorhead are closing their doors to services and prayers.
“I’m 40 years old, and I’ve seen wars, but nothing like this,” said Sefin Zeki, a member of the Islamic Society of Fargo and Moorhead. “Wartime, even after a chemical bomb in northern Iraq, people were still going to mosque.”
Many Fargo-Moorhead churches and a synagogue plan to continue holding services this weekend without drastic changes, but the members of the Islamic Society said it was their civic duty to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease that comes from the coronavirus.
One case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Ward County, N.D., on Wednesday, March 12. South Dakota had nine confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. Friday, March 13, while Minnesota officials said Friday that 14 Minnesotans are now confirmed to have COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Prayers in a mosque are different than in a Christian church, said Sajid Ghauri, a member of the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder, we are touching each other pretty much," Ghauri said. "It’s a little bit different than churches where they can sit apart, but even that can still be very dangerous. Any kind of gathering, you better watch it, and carefully analyze it."
Ghauri also has never heard of a mosque closing, he said. Attending the five prayers per day isn’t mandatory, but is highly recommended. In the old days, people walked to the mosque, which was a form of exercise. The prayers are to remind people to be honest, and to be involved in community, he said.
“When we decide to cancel the prayer, today, which is our largest prayer of the week, and in my 55 years of life that has never happened. Five times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Friday prayer just never gets canceled,” Ghauri said.
“We don’t want to take a chance on it, it’s not worth it, and I am hoping they do this at the churches here too.”