Significant holiday for Muslims across the world . . .
Today, the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, more than half of whom live in the Asia Pacific region, celebrate Eid al-Fitr, signifying the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The exact date depends on the sighting of the crescent moon (marking Shawwal’s beginning), which is first seen in Saudi Arabia. Hence, the date of Eid differs by country, and this year’s Eid is around May 12 or 13. Usually, Eid involves festive social gatherings, prayers at mosques, and banquets of food. The holiday is also an opportunity for migrant workers to return home after being away from family. However, for the second year in a row, celebrations will be hampered by varying COVID-19 protocols and restrictions in the Asia Pacific.
Under the pall of rising cases . . .
In Indonesia, home to the largest Muslim population worldwide, restrictions have been put in place similar to last year’s Eid, also known as Idul Fitri in the archipelago. The National COVID-19 task force urged people to refrain from family visits. Unlike last year, mosques in low-risk areas are allowed to hold prayer gatherings at half capacity and with masked worshippers. The government also imposed a second pandemic-related ban on mudik, the exodus usually preceding Idul Fitri when some 20 million Indonesians travel home to celebrate with family. However, mixed messaging from the central government around travel between Jakarta – a major COVID hotspot – and neighbouring regions has left local authorities with little time to prepare enforcement mechanisms. As variants spread, health officials fear the mudik and Idul Fitri season will cause COVID spikes.
Celebratory mood curbed in South Asia . . .
Other predominantly Muslim countries have also attempted to modify celebrations to curb COVID-19 transmission over the holiday. In India, facing its fiercest COVID wave yet with more than 300,000 new cases a day over the past week, there will be no congregational prayers. Muslim clerics around the country have urged communities to celebrate Eid at home and abide by their regional COVID-19 protocols. A similar warning came from Pakistani leaders and clerics as mosques held outdoor prayers across the country to slow transmission. In Bangladesh, the COVD situation threatens to worsen as thousands – mostly factory workers – leave Dhaka to go home and celebrate Eid with family. Health officials are concerned that the holiday travel rush and prayer congregation in more than 300,000 mosques countrywide will accelerate COVID-19 transmission, particularly the newly identified Indian variant of concern already active throughout Bangladesh.
- The Indian Express: Eid-ul-Fitr 2021 Moon Sighting: India to celebrate Eid among Covid restrictions
- The Jakarta Post: Government U-turn on local ‘mudik’ vexes regions
- Toronto Star: Festival travel, vaccine shortage put Bangladesh at risk