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COVID-19 lockdowns impact Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrations

Men prepare traditional food Saturday for the Eid al-Fitr festival in Herat, Afghanistan. Photo by Jalil Rezayee/EPA-EFE
Men prepare traditional food Saturday for the Eid al-Fitr festival in Herat, Afghanistan. Photo by Jalil Rezayee/EPA-EFE

May 23 (UPI) -- Many Muslims will celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Muslim holiday Ramadan differently this weekend due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual "festival of the breaking of the fast," begins at sunset Saturday since Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset during Ramadan.

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Millions of Muslims globally would typically gather at mosques and prayer areas early Sunday morning to perform Eid prayers and greet each other.

However, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Muslims have been urged to stay home and have created at-home prayer spaces.

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In Afghanistan, Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh urged citizens to follow coronavirus safety guidelines and stay home during the holiday amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, Anadolu Agency reported.

"The number of cases is so high that all ICUs in public hospitals are full," Majroh said, adding that citizens should only spend the holiday with immediate family members instead of larger gatherings.

In India, clerics are urging Muslims to celebrate at home, donate, social distance and talk to friends and relatives over the phone instead of the usual shopping, gatherings and festivities.

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Deputy prayer leader Syed Shaban Bukhari of New Delhi's Jama Masjid urged social distancing through avoiding social gatherings in a video posted to Twitter.

"We cannot allow any congregations in courtyards and parks, as it will expose people to an increased risk of contracting the virus," Bukhari said in the video.

Bukhari is among other Muslim leaders to urge worshipers to observe the holiday in India at home with mosques closed.

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"Since the entire world is at present battling coronavirus, the happiness of Eid is in not hugging each other and not shaking hands this time over," said Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chair imam of the All India Imam Organization. "If we want to love them, we have to maintain distance . . . Eid is related to life and happiness and we have to give the same."

In Bangladesh, the government banned large gatherings for communal Eid prayers, but has allowed worshipers to gather in mosques provided that they carry hand sanitizer and wear masks while praying. The government also advised people to disinfect the mosques before and after each Eid gathering, not to shake hands or hug after praying, and to stay home if sick.

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In Germany, a church in Berlin opened its doors to let Muslims hold Friday prayer while maintaining space for social distancing due to the pandemic.

Similar to Christian services, many Muslim services have moved online due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Indonesia, faith leaders urged Muslims not to gather for the traditional dinners to break the fast Saturday evening and the country's largest mosque, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, has set up televised prayers on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would maintain a national curfew during the holiday because of the pandemic with COVID-19 cases on an upward trajectory at the time, according to health officials.

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