Coronavirus: German Ikea car park used for mass Eid prayer

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Ikea in Wetzlar, western Germany, let a local mosque hold prayers in its car park

An Ikea store near Frankfurt in west Germany handed over its car park to a local mosque for socially-distanced mass prayers and won praise online.

Around 800 Muslims prayed in the large outdoor space to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday.

“The closing prayer with all Muslims in Wetzlar was like a reward for us,” a mosque chairman told BBC News.

Places of worship have reopened in Germany but they must follow rules to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Pictures of the Eid prayer posted on social media have been widely shared, with many complimenting the mosque for finding a safe way for the community to pray together.

Looking for an alternative space to accommodate many people practising social distancing, the chairman of a Wetzlar mosque, Kadir Teriz, approached Ikea last week.

He told BBC News he wasn’t hopeful he would receive a positive response.

“But the store manager didn’t hesitate for a second and said ‘yes, you can pray’. I was surprised and happy at the same time,” Mr Teriz explained.

The mosque invited worshippers to bring their prayers mats and face masks to the Ikea car park, but reminded them of the German coronavirus rules that children under 12 should be left at home and people must keep physically apart.

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Around 800 Muslims gathered for the Eid prayer organised by IGMG Wetzlar mosque

After a shaky start with some crowding at the entrance, a video shows hundreds of people lying down their prayer mats at a distance from each other, aided by stewards.

With the iconic blue and yellow Ikea storefront in the background, people wearing masks performed their prayers and listened to a sermon by the imam.

Mr Teriz said the prayer was particularly important because many worshippers felt isolated during Ramadan due to coronavirus restrictions.

Ordinarily the month of fasting is a busy time when families and communities gather nightly to break their fasts and organise charity work.

“It was a completely different Ramadan month, without contacts, without visits and without breaking the fast together,” he explained, adding that the chance to pray together was very valuable.

The decision was praised widely on social media. Canadian journalist Carly Agro posted “this is the love and kindness the world needs right now”.

“What a lovely gesture. A true sign of hope in these difficult times,” wrote another Twitter user.

“This is what finding solutions together and staying by each other through this crisis can look like!” added another.

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