(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/29/09) – A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group today called on Islamic religious leaders, or imams, to use daily and Friday congregational prayers in the nation’s mosques as a platform for providing information about preventing the spread of swine flu.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said imams are in a unique position to offer public health information to American Muslims because they lead congregational prayers every day in the more than 2,000 mosques nationwide.
CAIR is suggesting that imams stay up-to-date on the spread of swine flu in their areas and stress the possibility of temporarily avoiding Islamic cultural traditions such as handshakes or hugs of greeting during a local health crisis. Imams are also being asked to be aware of swine flu symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.
“In times of crisis, public health and safety takes precedence over normal actions and activities that could lead to the spread of infection,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Imams, because of their access to those attending mosques every day, are well-placed to offer advice to community members based on input from public health authorities.”
Awad added that Islam’s Prophet Muhammad encouraged actions designed to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. The Prophet told his community, if disease breaks out in a particular area, “do not leave that place, and when you hear of its spread in another place, do not go there.” (Al-Tirmidhi) Another Islamic tradition, or hadith, quotes the Prophet Muhammad saying: “A sick person (with a contagious disease) must not be brought among the healthy.” (Fiqh-us-Sunnah)
The Washington-based council is asking prayer leaders to offer flu prevention tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
CAIR, in consultation with Islamic scholars, is also suggesting that imams and mosque officials consider taking other preventive actions recommended by the CDC when swine flu is confirmed in a community, including:
- Worshipers who develop flu-like symptoms should be strongly encouraged to seek medical advice by phone and to self-isolate themselves in their homes.
- Cancellation of classes in Islamic schools should be considered if there is a confirmed or a suspected case of swine flu in the school population.
- Gatherings at mosques, even otherwise-mandatory Friday congregational prayers, should be temporarily cancelled if there is a risk of spreading infection.
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787 or 202-341-4171, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org