Mosques across the country have cancelled or altered their Friday prayer programs, after two Islamic associations called for the practice to be suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Muslim Medical Association of Canada and the Canadian Council of Imams say mosques should cancel Friday prayers – a ritual analogous to Sunday mass for Catholics – until further notice.

Asma Amjad, an Ottawa doctor and the vice president of the MMAC, said it is a difficult decision for mosques to make, but it’s part of their duty to help prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.

“Friday prayers are so beloved to Muslims, it’s such an important part of our lives,” said Amjad. “But we have a duty to be pro-active.”

With major sporting events and concerts being cancelled, Amjad said the onus is also on the Muslim community to act.

“As Muslims we’re part of this world and we have to ensure that we do our part,” said Amjad.

She said she doesn’t expect every mosque to follow the advisory immediately, but hopes that over time more will cancel the Friday prayer. Many mosques are already planning to scrap the congregational prayer until the end of March at least, she said.

Mosques in Ottawa, the Toronto-area and Niagara Falls, Ont., had already announced they will halt the prayer this week.