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Auburn Gallipoli Mosque granted coronavirus exemption for 400 people to celebrate Eid-al-Adha

ABC Health logo ABC Health 30/07/2020 By Lydia Feng
a large clock tower in front of a building: The NSW Health Minister granted an exemption to the mosque. (ABC Radio Sydney: Dayvis Heyne) © Provided by ABC News The NSW Health Minister granted an exemption to the mosque. (ABC Radio Sydney: Dayvis Heyne)

Hundreds of Muslim worshippers have marked one of Islam's holiest days at a Sydney mosque after the NSW Government granted it a temporary exemption from coronavirus restrictions.

Up to 400 people were allowed inside the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque in Sydney's west under the one-off exemption, granted by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Under NSW coronavirus restrictions, places of worship are limited to 100 people, or one visitor per four square metres.

The mosque's president Abdurrahman Asaroglu said those attending the annual festival of Eid al-Adha, also known as the festival of sacrifice, would be subject to temperature checks, sign-in sheets, and it would be mandatory to wear a mask.

Worshippers at the mosque will be expected to bring their own prayer mats and abide by social distancing rules while praying.

Dr Asaroglu said attendees would be spread out across "four zones" including the two levels of the mosque, an adjoining function hall and carpark.

"Our community is really understanding and they are OK to follow these measures — no shaking hands, no hugging — making sure that they just pray," he said.

"If everyone does the right thing I don't think there will be any issues."

In a statement, NSW Health said exemptions were only considered under "exceptional circumstances" and the mosque had developed a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Plan.

It said none of the separate zones would exceed 100 worshippers and would not be allowed to mix between areas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in an interview this morning, urged religious communities to find alternative ways to celebrate their faith.

"Jenny and I haven't had the chance to be at our church since February," the Prime Minister said.

"I know faith is very important to people, but even at times like this it is even more important that we don't gather in those large groups as important as faith is, we really do think of the health issues here"

Eid al-Adha marks the end of hajj, a five-day pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and is one of the holiest days on the Islamic calendar.

Last year, around 3,000 worshippers attended Eid al-Adha prayers at Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, with thousands more spilling out onto nearby streets.

But Dr Asaroglu said those scenes wouldn't be repeated this year.

"If anybody is not abiding by the regulations, we have security to make sure that they are excluded," he said.

If more than 400 people turn up, Dr Asaroglu said they would be turned away.

The chance for worshippers to attend Friday's prayers comes after the mosque was closed to the public during Eid al-Fitr in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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