Iraq’s Sadr calls for halt to Friday sermons, citing COVID-19 concerns
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Moqtada al Sadr, called for a suspension of Friday prayer sermons to curb the spread of coronavirus infections across the country.
Friday sermons, including those in which Sadr himself addresses followers, can be attended by thousands of people, particularly Shia worshippers across the southern Iraqi provinces.
The decision was made “in accordance with the [health ministry] High Committee of Health and Safety,” Sadr’s office said.
The populist cleric, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, downplayed the severity and danger of the coronavirus, despite the fact that the country’s health ministry was run by a minister affiliated with the Sadr movement.
Months later, Sadr published photos of himself getting the COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to spur his followers to get the vaccine as cases surged.
Iraq and its autonomous Kurdistan Region have recently seen another wave of COVID-19 cases, mainly driven by the spread of the Delta variant.
Iraq, since the beginning of the outbreak, has recorded over one million cases, of which 19,000 have been fatal.