Michael Gove is facing a backlash after he praised the Jewish contribution to the fight against coronavirus, but failed to acknowledge the efforts of Muslims and other religions to combat the disease.
In an address during a virtual Shabbaton at 5:30pm on Friday, Gove addressed members of 50 Jewish congregations across the country.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster called “the Jewish community [a] light shining in this darkness” and thanked the group “for the solidarity that [they] have shown and the values that [their] community exemplify”.
Gove added: “I wanted in particular to thank members of the Jewish community for everything that you’ve been doing at this difficult time… and also say thank you to those members of the UK Jewish community who are serving on the frontline in our NHS and doing so much to help us in response to this virus.”
Only hours before Friday’s speech, Al Jazeera reported that a 36-year-old British Pakistani Muslim woman, Areema Nasreen, had become one of the first nurses in the UK to die after contracting coronavirus while working on the front lines.
Earlier last week, UK news outlets reported that the first four doctors to die while fighting coronavirus were all of Muslim descent.
All four men – Adil El-Tayar, Habib Zaidi, Amged El-Hawrani and Alfa Sa’adu had ancestry in regions including Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Of the deaths of medical professionals, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Many of those who have died who are from the NHS were people who came to this country to make a difference, and they did, and they’ve given their lives in sacrifice, and we salute them.”
It is not only members of the Muslim community who have been involved in the NHS fight against coronavirus; Syrian refugee families in Dorset have been among the first to sign up to a community volunteer programme to help elderly residents.
The Dorset Echo quoted Walid, one of the residents who signed up to the programme, as saying: “I can help to deliver food and other essentials to vulnerable residents in my area. I strongly believe in the responsibility of citizens to help each other in crises.”
According to media outlet the Jewish Chronicle, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was originally lined up to make the speech but pulled out after being diagnosed with coronavirus, forcing him to stay in self-isolation.