Turkey shutters mosques for Friday prayers and holy night
Turkey has closed nationwide mosques for the upcoming Friday prayers and the holy night of Lailat al Miraj (“Miraç Kandili” in Turkish) as part of precautions taken against the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement, Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), said that mosques will be closed on March 20, for Friday prayers, and March 21, Lailat al Miraj.
Lailat al Miraj, also known as the “Night of Ascension,” is one of the five holy nights in Islam, when Muslims celebrate the ascension of the Prophet Mohammad to heaven.
Erbaş said on March 16 that the country suspended mass prayers in mosques until the risk of coronavirus outbreak is over.
The mosques will be kept open for individual prayers, he had said.
Churches and synagogues in the metropolis Istanbul have also temporarily halted their services in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
The churches and synagogues were seen to be closed in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, according to local media reports.
The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Şişhane neighborhood announced that it halted its services until March 26.
“Probably, they took such a decision because of the virus. Normally, they all come here. Right now, there is no security [personnel] as well,” said a shopkeeper.
The Church of St. Mary Draperis and Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church on İstiklal Avenue were also seen to have been closed.
In the meantime, churches in the southeastern Diyarbakır and Mardin provinces also decided to suspend public worship. Nevertheless, the churches would still be open for individual visits and prayers.
Turkey reported its second fatality from the coronavirus infection, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on late March 18. The total number of cases rose to 191 in the country, nearly double from a day before.
The government has ramped up measures to halt the spread of the virus, closing schools and universities and holding sports events without spectators.