BRADFORD’s Muslim community has been left dismayed by the decision to tighten lockdown restrictions in the district - just hours before Eid celebrations were due to begin.

The timing has been described as “insensitive” with one MP slamming it as “outrageous”.

Sofia Buncy, of the Muslim Women in Prison Project, based at Bradford’s Khidmat Centres, told the Telegraph & Argus: “The only thing I can relate this to is being told on Christmas Eve that it is no longer permissible to go and visit your family or have a get together once you have fully stuffed your turkey and laid out the table. Having spent most of the night being inundated with community queries the team and me have been discussing the impact on community relations.

“We have worked incredibly hard to maintain consistent and informed decision making in the city throughout covid. There are serious questions being asked by the community as to how aware statutory services were of this lockdown. The lasting effect of this can be detrimental. Much of me thinks local councils should be given autonomy to manage their own areas and affairs.

“As community workers we have tried our upmost to keep community members informed and abreast of any changes but this inconsistency in messaging is becoming exhausting even for us. Especially when you learn of changes via social media platforms with little clarity.”

She added: “The inadequacy and conflicting guidance is just exhausting. Unfortunately this message was delivered without formal announcement in an insensitive and untimely manner. The full ramifications of this on community relations in Bradford are yet to be seen. In the meantime it has already created suspicion and distrust.”

Zulfi Karim, president of the Bradford Council for Mosques, added: “You can just imagine the frustration, the anger, the disappointment of people - not just in the Muslim community but everybody who has being given two/three hours’ notice.

“I just wish it had been done a week ago, if the numbers were high, it should have been done sooner, rather than with three hours’ notice.”

Sending a message, he said: “Please, please, please talk to us, we are here, we want to work with you.”

He urged for communication with communities and people on the ground and added: “You would not have made that decision if it was Christmas Eve, we would not expect you to make it for Christmas Eve. It’s very, very difficult for the Muslim and BAME community that have already been heavily impacted by Covid.

“We’ve had it, we get it.”

Shadim Hussain, of the Bradford Foundation Trust and CEO of My Foster Family, a fostering network for black and ethnic minority families, described it as “shocking and disappointing”.

He said: “I don’t think you can argue with the science. The issue is the timing.

“It should have been given more thought and consideration. I don’t think anyone is arguing with the risk and need to be more controlled, but it’s the timing.”

Mr Hussain highlighted how attention has been put on the Muslim community despite other recent events like packed beaches and the crowds seen when Leeds and Liverpool fans gathered.

Inayah Sher, of the Bradford 4 Better community organisation, said: “The Government has taken yet another step to confirm its agenda of fanning the flames of anti-Muslim hatred by scheduling the social distancing changes only a few hours before Eid, in the most insidious and insensitive manner. My family and I have always complied with social distancing but to give less than three hours notice for social distancing before the day of Eid is a sign of wilful destructive behaviour designed to increase community tensions and spread hate.

“The Government is forcing cognitive dissonance and igniting a disregard for the law. My family and I will do our best to comply but for the very first time I will not, over the next three days, look with disdain at those who do not.”

Meanwhile, Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, said: “I am really disappointed and absolutely appalled by the way the Government has communicated this.

“It really is outrageous. The way that the Government has communicated this news highlights the Government’s errors, and highlights how the Government has not got a handle on this situation at all.

“Nobody knew this was coming and we had to find out through the media – these restrictions have been put in place without the Government communicating with the local authorities and public health bodies who are impacted, it’s appalling.”

She encouraged people to avoid speculating on whether or not Eid was the reason for the restrictions, but did respond to comments made by Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for the Calder Valley, who argued that “Muslim and BAME communities” are not taking the pandemic seriously.

“This is not the time for conspiracy theories or speculation, but it is the time to recognise the Government’s incompetence,” she said.

“I am also really appalled by Craig Whittaker, who is essentially blaming BAME communities for this.

“He is trying to scapegoat BAME communities and trying to deflect the issue away from the Government when, actually, if anyone is to blame, the blame absolutely must lie at the feet of the Government.

“We have to all follow the guidelines. We have to adhere to them and maintain social distancing and the other preventative measures. The more we do that, the more we can keep the rates down.

“My message to all my fellow Muslims, in the wake of the restrictions affecting Eid, is that Eid is all about sacrifice, and this is another sacrifice that we have to make.

“Please do not be disheartened by all of this, and please follow all the guidelines, in order to keep our loved ones safe. I would like to say Eid Mubarak to everyone who is celebrating.”

Bradford South MP Judith Cummins added: “I am extremely worried that these changes were made late at night by a Government minister via Twitter giving people just a few hours’ notice to change their plans. I am also worried that as of yet I have received very little detail of these far reaching changes and restrictions. Clarity is essential to tackle the pandemic.

“For several weeks I have been calling on the Government to work proactively with Bradford Council to deal with the high local infection rate.

“The Council needs access to more data and resources. We need more testing across Bradford both for those with symptoms and for those with no symptoms.

“I have also called on the Government to recognise that economic support must go hand-in-hand with public health advice. Workers and businesses must be supported to do the right thing.

“We all have a part to play in fighting coronavirus and preventing a full local lockdown in Bradford. People and businesses must follow the new guidance, and the Government must provide them with all the necessary support to do so. Clear public health messages are essential if people are to stay safe. I recognise that this will be a difficult time for those celebrating Eid.”

Councillor Martin Love, leader of the Green Party Group on Bradford District Council, said: “Announcing major new lockdown measures on Twitter with less than three hours’ notice on the night before Eid is shambolic to say the least, while placing the blame on individuals is nothing short of unforgivable.

“The Government has to take responsibility for its own failings, including its increasingly mixed and confusing messages and a test and trace system that is clearly not fit for purpose.”

He added: “The Government must stop blaming communities and start transferring money and responsibility to the local public health teams who are already in place with the necessary expertise and trust within their communities to deliver an effective and transparent test and trace system.”

Meanwhile, the West Yorkshire Police Federation has warned it will be difficult to police Bradford’s new coronavirus restrictions further following “haphazard announcements made by the Government”.

Chairman Brian Booth described the three hour period between the initial announcement and the rules being enforced as “absolute nonsense” and that the police service had “not been afforded the time to put things in place”.