Staunton, August 17 – Muslims have long experience with closing mosques because of diseases, Russia’s Muslim leaders did so in the Middle Ages to block the spread of plague. Having to shutter them during the coronavirus pandemic is thus nothing new; and now the Internet offers new possibilities.
If an imam can reach a few hundred people when he conducts face-to-face services, he can reach thousands or more via the Internet, the leaders say; and one mullah points out what he says all Muslims understand: “ When I read the Koran over the Internet, I in no way cease to be a mullah” (ng.ru/ng_religii/2021-08-17/11_513_internet.html).
In some places in Russia, mosques remain open; and religious leaders encourage those who attend to wear masks. Most do. But even in those cases, imams and mullahs use the Internet to reach the elderly and other high-risk groups and also to reach out to those who might never have attended services at the mosque before.
When the pandemic is over, the leaders suggest, more people will come to mosques than ever before; and that raises the question as to whether the authorities will permit the construction of more mosques in major cities. If they don’t, that could become a major source of controversy in the future.
Russian officials continue to say that their country is doing better in response to the pandemic than are many others, even though for the fifth day in a row, the number of covid deaths has exceeded 800 and the number of new infections has reached nearly 21,000 as the pandemic ebbs and flows (regnum.ru/news/3346834.html, t.me/COVID2019_official/3450and regnum.ru/news/society/3344522.html).
But several developments call into question Moscow’s upbeat commentary: the health ministry reports that only now has it vaccinated all its employees (regnum.ru/news/3346816.html) and only now has Moscow told regional officials to try to get vaccine to the villages – and only in those regions where conditions are good (regnum.ru/news/3346522.html).
Moreover, reports continue to suggest that Russia’s “voluntary-forced” approach to vaccination isn’t working and the Kremlin reports that Duma deputy candidates who seek to meet Vladimir Putin must undergo quarantine before being ushered into the presence (nakanune.ru/articles/117443/ and znak.com/2021-08-17/kandidatov_v_deputaty_gosdumy_ot_er_posadili_na_karantin_pered_vstrechey_s_putinym).
Russian officials report that talks continue with the EU about mutual recognition of each other’s vaccination certificates and are beginning with Argentinian officials in Moscow to discuss problems with Sputnik-5 deliveries to that country (regnum.ru/news/3346411.html and tass.com/world/1326705).
And it is being reported that some of the Russian government’s IT systems have begun to break down under the pressure of pandemic reporting (rosbalt.ru/piter/2021/08/17/1916596.html