Coronavirus, Palestine violence stifle Eid celebrations

ISLAMABAD: Muslims celebrated Eidul Fitr in a subdued mood for a second year Thursday as the Covid-19 pandemic again forced mosque closings and family separations on the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Eid prayers were held at open areas in mosques and Eidgahs across the country following government-devised guidelines and other measures to curb the spread of the contagion disease, Radio Pakistan said

Special prayers were offered for the well-being of the country, while the clerics highlighted the significance of the festival. Prayers were also offered for Palestine and Indian-occupied Kashmir.

In their messages, Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr Arif Alvi called on the nation to strictly adhere to safety protocols while celebrating Eid, saying the measures were necessary to avoid a massive outbreak.

The prime minister urged the nation to strictly follow precautionary measures and show compassion to the less fortunate while celebrating.

The world is witnessing a third peak of the pandemic, he said, adding that people should exercise extra caution and strictly abide by guidelines. “The precautions are also the injunctions of Islam as well as the teachings of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” he said.

He also asked the nation to take special care of the poor and needy, particularly the families suffering financially due to the pandemic while celebrating the festival. He also called for remembering those who had sacrificed their lives for a greater cause to bring pride to the nation.

Imran said the prayers and wishes of the nation were with the people of occupied Kashmir on the occasion.

In a series of tweets, he said that this was “a very different Eid” and that it must be celebrated in a quiet manner due to two important reasons.

“One, there is the corona pandemic. In Pakistan, we are now again beginning to control the spread so it is vital for our people to observe SOPs.

Two, equally critical is the need for us all to show solidarity with the Kashmiris and Palestinians who are suffering oppression by occupation powers in complete violation of their international guaranteed basic human rights,” he said.

President Alvi greeted the nation as well as the Muslim world on the occasion and prayed that the day brings plenty of joy.

National Assembly Opposition Leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif and his niece and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also wished the nation.

While Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said: “This Eid, we pray for the people of Kashmir and Palestine, who spend another Eid resisting oppression and fighting for freedom.

“In Pakistan, we welcome Eid with Covid wave gaining momentum and backbreaking inflation robbing joy of Eid for so many. Appeal to all, observe Eid with simplicity,” he said.


In the embattled Gaza Strip, the call to prayer echoed over pulverized buildings and heaps of rubble as Israeli warplanes continued to pound the territory in the worst outbreak of violence since the 2014 war.

Hamas, the fighter group ruling Gaza, urged the faithful to mark communal prayers inside their homes or the nearest mosques and avoid being out in the open.

“It is all airstrikes, destruction and devastation,” said Hassan Abu Shaaban, who tried to lighten the mood by passing out chocolates to passersby.

Worshippers wearing masks joined communal prayers in the streets of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation allowed mosque prayers in low-risk areas, but mosques in areas where there was more risk of the virus spreading closed their doors, including Jakarta’s Istiqlal Grand Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia.

Indonesians and Malaysians were banned for a second year from traveling to visit relatives in the traditional Eid homecoming.

In Bangladesh, however, tens of thousands of people were leaving the capital, Dhaka, to join their families back in their villages for Eid celebrations despite a nationwide lockdown and road checkpoints. Experts fear a surge in cases in a country grappling with a shortage of vaccines and fear of Indian variants of the coronavirus spreading.

“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.”

Despite the similar ban a year ago, the number of daily cases in Indonesia had picked up by 37 percent three weeks after the holiday. Similar patterns followed other holidays in the country that has counted 1.7 million infections and more than 47,600 fatalities from Covid-19.

While police set up highway checkpoints and domestic flights and other modes of transportation were suspended, anxiety lingers that people will defy the prohibition. Television reports showed city dwellers hiding on disguised trucks or fishing boats and officers at roadblocks being overwhelmed by desperate motorists.

“We followed the government decision that banned us [from] visiting my parents for Eid last year, it’s enough! Nothing can stop me now,” said factory worker Askari Anam, who used alleys and shortcuts to avoid being stopped from visiting his hometown.

“Of course I’m worried,” he said when asked about possibly contracting the virus. “But I leave it to God.”

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin expressed concern about a virus spike and feared people would travel despite the ban.

In the southern Philippines, coronavirus outbreaks and new fighting between government forces and Muslim insurgents in one province prevented people from holding large public prayers. Instead, most hunkered down in their homes, while in Maguindanao province, many families displaced by recent fighting marked the holiday in evacuation camps.

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin unexpectedly announced another nationwide lockdown from Wednesday until June 7 to curb a spike in cases. Inter-state travel and all social activities are banned, which means that like in Indonesia, Muslims cannot visit each other or family graves.

Muhyiddin acknowledged that many are angry with the lockdown but defended the need for drastic measures, saying hospitals have almost reached their capacity.

Malaysia reported 4,765 cases on Wednesday, pushing its tally to 453,222, nearly fourfold from the start of the year. Deaths also rose to 1,761.

“Is this government tyrannical? But I am not a tyrant,” Muhyiddin said, “Imagine if you have guests over, then the virus will spread. […] If the guest visits 10 homes, then 10 families will be infected with Covid-19 and in the end as soon as (Eid) ends, the number of positive cases in the country could jump to tens of thousands daily.”

Egyptians marked the holiday with group prayers outside, after the government imposed new restrictions on public gatherings. Hundreds prayed shoulder-to-shoulder in the courtyard of a historic Cairo mosque, almost all wearing masks. Group prayers were banned last year due to the pandemic.

“It is a feeling of happiness that we were missing,” said Ahmed Saeed, one worshipper. “We hope corona ends and we always gather together.”

The Egyptian government is trying to minimise a third wave of infections, with daily reported new cases surpassing 1,000 in the past two weeks. Last week, it ordered a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, shops, cafes and social clubs and closed the country’s public beaches and parks for the duration of Eid.

Believers in Turkey were able to attend communal prayers in mosques, however. Hundreds prayed in Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia, the sixth-century Byzantine cathedral which was reconverted into a mosque last summer.

At the end of April, the Turkish government imposed its strictest lockdown yet, until May 17, ordering people to stay home, but mosques have been open, citing strict adherence to rules to fight infections.

In Bosnia, the number of people allowed inside the mosques was limited and strict hygiene measures were in place. Older people were advised to stay at home.

Hadis Bajric, a resident of Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, acknowledged that this Eid would be different to some in the past. “We have to be responsible, considering all these epidemiologic restrictions,” he said.

“Eid is the crown of our belief, of everything that we did throughout the year, all that positive energy from the month of Ramadan.”

— With additional input from The Associated Press

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