Wishing Muslims a blessed Eid would be usual on Eid ul-Adha, and I wish Muslims all over the world Eid Mubarak most sincerely. But the good wishes can only feel slightly hollow in parts of the North of England in the context of the reimposition of a lockdown that prevents the usual celebratory gatherings where family and friends come together to share a special meal and exchange presents. It is like saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone when one knows that lockdown has stopped her from enjoying a long-planned and looked forward to celebration. Tweeting the announcement of the reinstated regulations after 9.00pm on the evening before Eid is closely equivalent to passing an edict prohibiting friends and family from coming for Christmas after the presents have been wrapped, the stockings hung and much of the preparation for Christmas dinner for the extended family has already been completed. As with the government’s sudden announcement that put paid to so many summer holidays to Spain, it is the crushing disappointment of the children, in particular, that once again I feel for.
Our fresh-faced Secretary for Health and (supposedly) Social Care, Matt Hancock, has told the BBC’s Today programme that his ‘heart goes out the Muslim communities’ affected because he knows how important Eid celebrations are. He denied that the eleventh hour ban on gatherings was to stop the Eid celebrations taking place. But he also told BBC Breakfast that ‘most of the transmission is happening between households visiting each other, and people visiting relatives and friends’ so the government had taken ‘targeted action.’ It seems only too obvious who the targets were.
In a week in which his inimitable boss, Boris, was pulled up by the Office for Statistics Regulation for using statistics on child poverty ‘selectively, inaccurately and, ultimately misleadingly’ on three separate occasions – in other words lying – it is very difficult not to conclude that Hancock was doing his rather inadequate best to imitate the inimitable. If he knew how important Eid celebrations are and didn’t want to target them why didn’t he wait 24 hours to impose his edict? After all, as others have pointed out, the regulations around face-coverings only came into effect ten days after they had been announced. How many extra deaths, on top of the more than 20 thousand the government’s negligence and incompetence has already been responsible for, did ‘the science’ Hancock always claims to follow tell him a 24 hour delay would occasion? Or was it, once again, purely presentational: having been criticised for responding too slowly to the emergence of the virus, was he demonstrating the ability to act decisively, regardless of the cost to a community from whom the Tories probably don’t expect to glean many votes anyway? Children don’t get to vote, so they don’t matter much.