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Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha in shadow of pandemic

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CAIRO (AP) – Muslims around the world observed another major Islamic holiday on Tuesday in the shadow of the pandemic and amid growing concerns over the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of the Sacrifice,†is usually marked by community prayers, large social gatherings and, for many, the slaughter of cattle and the distribution of meat to the needy. This year, the celebration comes as many countries battle the delta variant first identified in India, prompting some to impose new restrictions or call for people to avoid congregating and follow safety protocols. .

The pandemic has already wreaked havoc for the second year on a sacred pillar of Islam, the hajj, whose final days coincide with Eid al-Adha. Once attracting some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic pilgrimage has been drastically curtailed due to the virus.

This year, 60,000 Saudi citizens vaccinated or residents of Saudi Arabia were allowed to perform the hajj, preventing Muslims from other countries from fulfilling the Islamic obligation.

Indonesia marked a dark Eid al-Adha amid a devastating new wave of coronavirus cases in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. Large gatherings have been banned and tighter travel restrictions imposed. Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, also an influential Islamic cleric, called on people to offer holiday prayers at home with their families.

“Don’t make the crowds,” Amin said in televised remarks before the holiday began. “Protecting yourself from the COVID-19 pandemic is mandatory. “

The push was reportedly fueled by travel on another holiday – the Eid al-Fitr festival in May – and the rapid spread of the delta variant.

In Malaysia, measures have been tightened after a sharp rise in infections despite a nationwide lockdown since June 1 – people are banned from returning to their hometowns or crossing districts to celebrate. Home visits and usual travel to cemeteries are also prohibited.

Healthy worshipers are allowed to assemble for prayers in mosques, with strict social distancing and no physical contact. Ritual animal sacrifices are limited to mosques and other approved areas.

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah urged Malaysians not to “repeat irresponsible behavior”, adding that the trips and celebrations during Eid al-Fitr and another festival on the island of Borneo have leads to new groups of cases.

“Don’t let the excitement of celebrating the Feast of the Sacrifice put us all to death from COVID-19,†he said in a statement.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged Muslims to stay at home. “I call on you all to be patient and abide by the rules because your sacrifice is a great jihad in the sight of Allah and in our efforts to save lives,” he said in a televised speech on the eve of the festival. .

The World Health Organization has reported that deaths from COVID-19 had increased after a period of decline. The reversal was attributed to low vaccination rates, relaxed mask rules and other precautions, and the delta variant.

The closures will drastically curtail Eid al-Adha festivities in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largest cities.

Jihad Dib, a Sydney resident, a New South Wales state government lawmaker, said Muslims in the city were sad but understood why they would be confined to their homes without authorized visitors.

“This will be the first Eid in my life that I don’t hug and kiss my mom and dad,†Dib told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Muslims in Melbourne face their second Eid al-Adha on lockdown in as many years. The sudden announcement of Melbourne’s lockdown last week will also deal a huge financial blow to retailers who had stocked up on food before what they believed to be the usual Eid festivities.

Iran imposed a week-long lockdown on the capital, Tehran, and the surrounding region on Monday as the country grapples with a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported. Containment begins Tuesday.

Not everyone is imposing new restrictions. In Bangladesh, authorities have allowed an eight-day break from the country’s strict lockdown for vacations that health experts say could be dangerous.

In Egypt, Essam Shaban traveled to his hometown south of Sohag to spend Eid al-Adha with his family. He said before the start of the holiday that he planned to pray in a mosque on Tuesday while taking precautions such as bringing his own prayer mat and wearing a mask.

“We want this Eid to run peacefully without any infection,†he said. “We have to follow the instructions.”

Shaban was eager to join his brothers in buying a buffalo to be slaughtered, door-to-door giving meat to the poor, and the traditional feast meal later in the day with his extended family.

“It’s usually loud with laughter and arguing with the kids,†he said. “It’s good.”

But others will be without loved ones.

In India, where Eid al-Adha begins on Wednesday, Tahir Qureshi always went with his father for prayers and then to visit family and friends. His father died in June after contracting the virus in a wave that devastated the country, and the thought of having to spend the holidays without him is heartbreaking.

“It will be difficult without him,” he said.

Indian Muslim scholars have urged people to exercise restraint and adhere to health protocols. Some states have restricted large gatherings and require people to observe the holidays at home.

Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the pandemic, which has plunged millions of Indians into financial straits, has many saying they can’t afford to buy sacrificial livestock.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region, businessman Ghulam Hassan Wani is among those downsizing.

“I used to sacrifice three or four sheep, but this year we can barely afford one,†Wani said.

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Associated Press editors around the world contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press religious coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment via The Conversation US. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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