MEMBERS of Oxford’s oldest mosque have urged the Muslim community to accept their coronavirus jabs when offered.

Moznu Miah, a trustee and chairman of the Oxford Mosque Society in Bath Street, off St Clement’s, said the mosque encouraged worshippers to embrace the vaccination programme.

“We definitely encourage everyone to have it,” he said. “It is for the safety of everyone and the sooner we all get it, the quicker we can get back to normal.

“Some people are nervous about it, they are bound to be, as it has come so fast. But we can see there are no ill-effects.”

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He highlighted figures suggesting some members of minority ethnic groups were more reluctant to receive the vaccine, but stressed the importance of supporting the effort.

He added: “We have seen people in our community pass away, sadly, and we share our sympathies with their loved ones. We pray for everyone to be safe.”

The Government aims to offer a first jab to all adults in the UK by the end of July, with one in three adults already vaccinated.

While the ending of lockdown is still some way off, places of worship have begun gradually welcoming back the faithful, a few at a time.

At the Oxford Mosque Society, a limited number of people follow strict social distancing measures. Masks are worn inside and worshippers bring their own prayer mats.

The mosque caters for worshippers from around the Islamic world, with members from everywhere from Bangladesh to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. It is at the heart of its community, enjoying a good relationship with neighbours and, in normal times, members invite the wider Oxford community to share Iftar – the breaking of fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Mr Miah, who came to Oxford in 1972, said: “We had to close for two months but are open again and are keen to keep everyone safe by following the government guidelines and sticking to the regulations.

“This place gives people a sense of peace and tranquility. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and it is important for people to be able to pray together. We are looking forward to being able to return to normal – which is why the vaccine is so important.”

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However, lockdown has been tough on the mosque, which opened in 1968, with fewer donations to pay for its upkeep. Last year the roof had to be replaced.

Mr Miah said: “It is a struggle. We’ve had no help from the Government and no other financial support so it is difficult maintaining the building and paying the bills.”

He said it cost up to £300 a week to keep the mosque going, and urged anyone able to help to email him.

* Contact Mr Miah and the Oxford Mosque Society at