West Cobb mosque takes aim at coronavirus, vaccine hesitancy

Aleks Gilbert, Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.
·3 min read

Apr. 18—WEST COBB — Last Saturday morning, Masjid Al Furqan, also known as the West Cobb Islamic Center, hosted a coronavirus vaccination event that drew dozens from the community.

It was the first Cobb mosque to host a vaccination event, according to Fadi Ali, an administrator at Masjid Al Furqan.

The event, a partnership with Walmart, was open to all and offered doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, of which there were 100 on hand. Some 90 people had signed up, Ali said, but the center accepted walk-ins, and Ali was hopeful they would run out of doses before the event's conclusion.

Ali said the event's purpose was twofold: protecting members of the west Cobb community from the coronavirus and reducing vaccine hesitancy among some in mosque's congregation, which, 300-strong, is the largest in Cobb.

Some view the vaccine as experimental and offering little benefit, Ali said. But the congregation also has many physicians, many of whom have already been vaccinated and who have been urging others to follow suit.

Dr. Javaid Sayeed is one of those physicians. Sayeed runs a family practice in Dallas, and was present at the event. He said he has tried to convince fellow congregants to get vaccinated by telling them he had already done so.

"And the studies that we have have proven that ... side effects are so minimal, even with the recent Johnson & Johnson (controversy)," he said, referring to the Food and Drug Administration's decision to pause administration of that company's coronavirus vaccine after at least six women who received it developed a serious blood clotting disorder.

There was another hurdle to cross, albeit a minor one.

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month marked by daily fasting, began April 13. During Ramadan, observant Muslims are barred from eating or drinking during daylight hours. There was some question as to whether injecting oneself with a vaccine was permitted.

But Muslim scholars gave their go-ahead, Ali said, and Masjid Al Furqan's imam put out a statement to that effect.

Masjid Al Furqan is not only the largest of Cobb's eight mosques, but its oldest, Ali said. It has lost several of its members to the coronavirus, including one the night before the event who was very active in the community.

The mosque has taken a number of steps to protect its congregants.

The funeral prayer, traditionally held inside one's mosque, has instead been conducted at the Muslim cemetery on Macland Road, to limit potential spread of the virus. And the men's and women's prayer rooms at Masjid Al Furqan have cut their capacity fivefold to allow for social distancing.

Like a number of other houses of worship in Cobb, it has also stepped up to offer food to those in need during the pandemic, Ali said.

West Cobb's Khalid Abbas was among those who received a vaccine at the mosque.

He said he had tried to schedule an appointment earlier, but the only location with available doses was an hour away.

"In the meantime, this came up, and we definitely appreciate the community, socially Walmart, offering this service," he said after the 15-minute observation period had passed. Of any potential side effects, he said he wasn't worried.

"They asked me to wait 15 minutes, but 15 minutes are over and I'm as normal as I came in," he said.