ISLAMABAD-A latest survey conducted by the PATTAN, an organization working for the marginalised segments of society, found that nearly 90% of the surveyed mosques violated the 20-point agreement signed between the government and religious clerics.

The survey was conducted in 16 cities between 29 April and 7 May, in Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad.

According to the survey, besides regular mosque goers, the respondents of the survey were Imams and members of mosque committees and nearly 80% of the namazis said they offer three to five prayers including Taraveeh in congregation in a mosque. However, only 8% respondents of the survey said they didn’t go to mosque at all.

The survey also found differences between the opinions of namazis and the Imams/masjid committee members regarding the implementation of the 20-point SOPs. For instance, the survey finds that one-third of namazis point fingers at Imams and masjid committees for not implementing the SOPs, while only 8% Imams blame themselves. Similarly, both groups hugely disagree about police responsibility in this regard. Only 8% Imams, but 48% namazis, blamed police for failure in non-implementation.

In response to another question, 60% namazis said that Imams did not discipline them to observe the SOPs.

On the other hand, when a similar question was asked of the Imams, every Imam said that he tried his best. 39% said they encourage people to follow the SOPs, and 53% claimed they have banned wuzzu, children and elderly from the mosques, and that they exhort people to wear masks and keep a six feet distance.

The progress of the police in implementation of SOPs was also highlighted as 26% of the namazis said police were helping in implementing the SOPs and 50% of Imams said the same.

The most interesting finding of the survey appears to be the general attitude of respondents in these times of deadly pandemic. There is a widespread fatalistic attitude, as most (74%) of the namazis said that life and death are in God’s hands and saying prayers in a mosque is preferred in Islam.

Intriguingly, a lower (47%) percentage of Imams said this!

Regarding awareness about the 20-point agreement, 87% of Imams/committee members, and 80% of Namazis knew about it. Their main sources of information were TV channels and social media. However, 28% namazis also mentioned mosques as one of the sources of this information.

A pleasant surprise was that as many as 94% Imams and masjid committee members supported the 20- point agreement, while of the rest, 6% didn’t support the agreement but endorsed the SOPs.

In total, 132 imams and masjid committee members and 345 namazis from 95 mosques participated in the survey, while 23 Imams refused to take part in the exercise. The survey was conducted in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Lahore, Jhang, Multan, Layyah, Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan. Besides this, our survey team also observed 109 mosques during Taraveeh congregations in Islamabad, Karachi, MirpurKhas, Shikarpur, Kashmore, Hyderabad, Thatta and Badin.

As it has now been established that social distancing is the most effective measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and given that the clerics had agreed to implement the SOPs, it is imperative for the government to improve compliance of these safety measures.

This is extremely needed now and in the long term. The country cannot afford half-hearted measures as they will not give the desired results.

The media is urged to educate the public more aggressively and civil society must assist marginalised and poor communities as their vulnerabilities have deepened.