Eid 2021: Celebrations Fade Away As Oppression And Coronavirus Cast Ominous Shadows

Muslims around the world celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr, one of their most sacred festivals, this year with masks, prayers, and empathy as widespread oppression and COVID-19 damage cast gloom over festivities, mass gatherings, and celebrations. 

For many Covid-hit countries, like Pakistan, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia, Eid was marked by curbs on social distancing, shop shutdowns, and even partial closures of some mosques. Yet, the number of those gathering for prayers was higher than in 2020 when worldwide lockdowns loomed over all regular events. 

“(We are) very lucky that we can pray together this year when we couldn’t do it last year,” said Tri Haryati Ningsih, 53, at the Dian Al-Mahri mosque in the Indonesian city of Depok, south of the capital Jakarta.

“Hopefully, the coronavirus will pass quickly, and we can always worship together,” she added.

Typically, Eid accelerates the rates of internal and external migrations as millions travel to be with their families to commemorate the ending of the fasting month of Ramadan. But this year was markedly different. In Pakistan, domestic travel was all but banned; meanwhile, in other countries like India, public transport was cut off to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. 

In Depok, the faithful wore masks as they arrived and sanitized their hands before going in.

At the entrance, a poster outlining six steps recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent the spread of Covid-19 served as a reminder of the danger.

For many Muslims, Eid was drearier than they had imagined. In Gaza, mainly, the merriment of Eid was replaced by mourning after a heavy night of Israeli airstrikes during the fiercest flare-up in years. In the week leading up to Eid, at least 83 people gained martyrdom along the Gaza strip, although Medics suggest that the real numbers could be much higher. 

“Every year, we would dress up and make visits. This year we will not go anywhere,” said 20-year-old Basma Al-Farra in Khan Younis refugee camp.

The violence began last Monday, after Israeli police attacked the Mosque Al Aqsa, firing more than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades. Tensions further escalated after several Palestinians were forcefully evicted from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

In Afghanistan as well, the situation was dire. On Monday, May 10, a car bomb was detonated in the neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school, claiming the lives of 85 people, primarily schoolgirls. The area where the blasts happened is home to a large community of Shiites from the Hazara ethnic minority, which has been targeted in the past by the Islamic State. Hence for the community specifically, there was no joy to be found on Eid, as racial hate was rehashed and many victims of the triple blasts remained missing. 

“Afghanistan is unfortunately involved in war and insecurity, but the people are delighted with this three-day ceasefire,” said Noorulah Stanikzai, a young resident of Kabul relaxing at the park with his friends.

The situation in the Iraqi city of Mosul was less bleak. After being badly ruined in the long war between the Iraqi State and the Islamic Militant Group, Eid prayers were held in the 7th century al-Masfi mosque for the first time since 2017. However, the prayers in the mosque had a decided political message, i.e., to push the government to amplify actions in rebuilding the Old City. 

“We are happy about Eid and other celebrations, but there is also heartbreak because of great destruction in Mosul until this day,” said Ayyub Dhanun, one of the volunteers.

“This is an invitation to rebuild this monument and to compensate Mosul residents by rebuilding their houses in old Mosul.”

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