Muslims Mark End Of Ramadan, But COVID Subdues Celebrations For A Second Year

Some 1.8 billion Muslims around the world are marking Eid al-Fitr, the festival ending the holy month of Ramadan, but the celebration is muted for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia, worshippers wore masks as they joined in communal prayers, but in some areas considered at high risk for transmission of the coronavirus, mosques — including Southeast Asia’s largest, the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in the capital Jakarta — closed their doors as a precaution, according to The Associated Press.

Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia, which is in the midst of a nationwide lockdown, asked the faithful for a second year not to travel home for traditional celebrations with family to mark Eid, which concludes a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayer and introspection.

The lead-up to Eid last year saw Indonesia with the largest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia. Despite the government’s ban on travel in 2020, the country failed to stop the spread of the virus and it witnessed a jump in cases in the weeks following the holiday.

“I understand that we all miss our relatives at times like this, especially in the momentum of Eid,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in televised remarks. “But let’s prioritize safety together by not going back to our hometowns.”

However, in Bangladesh, tens of thousands of people were heading home. Bangaldesh is experiencing a shortage of coronavirus vaccines but that didn’t stop many in the capital, Dhaka, from joining loved ones in villages, leading experts to fear a surge of COVID-19 in the country.

Pakistan’s chairman of the official committee that announces the first sighting of the new moon there, marking the official end of Ramadan, urged the public to follow coronavirus precautions, such as wearing masks and avoiding physical contact, during Eid prayers.

In India, with a Muslim population second only to Indonesia, the festival takes place against the backdrop of an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths. Many infections have been traced to a massive Hindu festival along the banks of the Ganges River.

Coronavirus outbreaks and new fighting between government forces and Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, has prevented large public prayers. Instead, most are worshipping in their homes. In Maguindanao province, many families displaced by the fighting celebrated as best they could in evacuation camps.

In the Gaza Strip, the call to prayer sounded amid the rubble of Israel airstrikes in the territory, in the worst outbreak of violence in years. Scores of people have been killed and there is no ceasefire in sight, despite the start of the Eid.

The chief imam in Ghana has issued directives against gatherings to offer Nawafil (optional prayers) to mark Eid. Instead, he has proposed small meetings that adhere to COVID-19 protocols.

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