Noureddine Boukrouh, Algerian politician believes that “Fasting during the period of Ramadan is unfavourable as it poses a health risk and contributes to the outbreak of the coronavirus”.
The former head of the Algerian Renewal Party (PRA) published an article on Facebook under the title “Coronavirus and civilizations”. In it, he asked Muslims to elide fasting this year due to the spread of COVID-19.
Boukrouh stated, “Muslims have either to suspend fasting, because a hungry body may increase its vulnerability and stimulates the spread of the COVID-19 virus or to opt for fasting and be at the risk of a wider outbreak of the virus.”
The Coronavirus article sparked a wave of controversy in Algeria, especially on social media. Many saw Boukrouh’s suggestion as a rule that stimulates the launching of jurisprudence in dealing with the crisis. While others attacked him for interfering “In a purely religious issue only Islamic and medical scholars can tackle”.
Neither the Ministry of Religious Affairs nor other religious bodies in Algeria issued any additional comments. Boukrouh said that he wrote the article after a discussion at the Al-Azhar Mosque on 7th April.
Last week, Al-Azhar International Centre for Electronic Fatwa released a statement on Facebook. It stated that a Muslim is not permitted to be pardoned from observing Ramadan unless advised by his physicians. Unless however, it is proven scientifically that fasting will make the individual vulnerable to infection and death due to coronavirus. To date, no such scientific evidence has been produced.
Read more: COVID-19: United Nations on a ventilator
The current situation in Algeria
Currently, a mass curfew is prevalent in Algeria. With the numbers of total cases risen to 2,160 and 336 deaths, the country is finding itself economically stagnant after years of political instability.
Initially, the government responded with an irresponsible delay in announcing crucial measures, mixed with a lack of direct communication. Many say that the coronavirus crisis was exploited to persecute activists and journalists such as Karim Tabbou and Khaled Drareni.
Algeria now has an official new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, inaugurated following unpopular elections in December. However, protesters have refused to go home without a radical and peaceful change in the country’s system.
The coronavirus crisis is not only an issue for the Algerian health sector but more importantly for a delegitimize political system, a leaderless protest movement and the country’s future.