The Ikea store in Wetzlar dedicated its car park on Sunday to enable around 800 Muslims from a local mosque to hold their closing prayers while safely spaced out, to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Germany has allowed places of worship to reopen, but congregations must follow social distancing rules and maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 metres apart from one another.
Kadir Terzi, chairman of the Wetzlar mosque, told the BBC he approached Ikea last week while looking for a space that could accommodate many people for the prayer, while allowing them to stay apart.
He was not hopeful he would receive a positive response, but the store manager “didn’t hesitate for a second and said ‘yes, you can pray’”, he said.
“I was surprised and happy at the same time … The closing prayer with all Muslims in Wetzlar was like a reward for us,” said Mr Terzi.
Ikea Deutschland said in a statement: “Representatives of three Muslim religious communities in Wetzlar contacted the Ikea store in search of a protected outdoor place where they could gold their prayer at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
“After receiving approval for the event from the city and the public order office, Ikea Wetzlar made its parking lot available for the prayer.”
A video of the prayers posted on the mosque’s Facebook page showed some crowding at the entrance when people began arriving, but attendees were then given their own spaces to place their prayer mats.
Aerial footage taken with a drone showed the highly unusual sight of hundreds of people performing their prayers with Ikea’s signature blue and yellow storefront in the background.
Mr Terzi said the prayer held particular significance because the coronavirus pandemic forced many worshippers into isolation during this year’s Ramadan.
The holy month of fasting usually has families coming together each night to break their fasts and carry out charitable works.
He told the BBC: “It was a completely different Ramadan month, without contacts, without visits, without breaking the fast together.”
Photos of the prayer were shared widely on social media, with many praising Ikea for allowing the local Muslim congregation to mark the occasion.
Asim Chaudhry, star of BBC sitcom People Just Do Nothing, retweeted a photo and said: “Big up Ikea. Even the Mosques are DIY.”
Max Kerman, frontman of the band Arkells, said: “This is the kind of news I want in my feed. Goodness begets goodness. And if nothing else I am a more hopeful human.”
The mosque said in a statement: “We would like to express our gratitude to the Wetzlar police, the Wetzlar public order office, management of Ikea Wetzlar, brothers and all that made this extraordinary prayer possible. Thank you so much.”
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