State engagement with religious leaders for effective COVID-19 crisis response

With the outbreak of COVID-19, many Muslim countries throughout the world including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and Iran imposed restrictions on religious gatherings and congregations, including the mandatory Friday prayer.

In Pakistan, however, the state was unable to effectively negotiate with the religious leaderships and mosques remained open. In the government’s negotiations with senior religious leadership, it was decided that congregational prayers will be allowed with strict social distancing protocols. However, government announcements and NGO reports have shown poor compliance with such protocols.

This study responds to this challenge by testing if outreach to religious leadership in Pakistan can enhance state effectiveness in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the state’s limited capacity in enforcing rules directly, persuasion is the key in tackling the public health crisis. Expanding on pilot experiences, this study tests if messaging based on only secular or religious authority or a combination of both is effective in convincing community leaders.


  • Publication - Policy Brief

    Engagement with local religious leaders to combat COVID-19 in Pakistan

    COVID-19 remains a threat for the Pakistani economy and health care system. In this environment, congregational prayers, including obligatory Friday prayers, present significant risks for transmission of the virus if not managed properly. This policy brief measures the impact of one-on-one engagement with local religious leadership on the compliance of public health...

    25 Mar 2021 | Maniha Aftab, Syed Uzair Junaid, Lala Rukh Khan, Katherine Vyborny

  • Blog post

    Engaging with mosque imams for effective responses to COVID-19

    Authors’ note: The results discussed in this blog are based on a pilot. These findings are preliminary and are being presented for initial consideration and discussion. We will update this blog once information from wider research is available. In order to combat the spread of COVID-19, a large number of Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and...

    24 Apr 2020 | Katherine Vyborny, Syed Uzair Junaid, Lala Rukh Khan