Eid al-Adha observed in Middle East, other parts of the world under covid shadow

News Network
July 20, 2021

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Muslims in many countries around the world were observing Tuesday, July 20, yet another major Islamic holiday in the shadow of the pandemic and amid growing concerns about the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings and, for many, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy. This year, the holiday comes as many countries battle the delta variant first identified in India, prompting some to impose new restrictions or issue appeals for people to avoid congregating and follow safety protocols.

The pandemic has already taken a toll for the second year on a sacred mainstay of Islam, the hajj, whose last days coincide with Eid al-Adha. Once drawing some 2.5 million Muslims from across the globe to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic pilgrimage has been dramatically scaled back due to the virus.

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

Indonesia marked a grim Eid al-Adha amid a devastating new wave of coronavirus cases in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. Large gatherings were banned and tougher travel restrictions imposed. Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, also an influential Islamic cleric, appealed to people to perform holiday prayers at home with their families.

“Don't do crowds,” Amin said in televised remarks ahead of the start of the holiday. “Protecting oneself from the Covid-19 pandemic is obligatory.”

The surge is believed to have been fueled by travel during another holiday — the Eid al-Fitr festival in May — and by the rapid spread of the delta variant.

In Malaysia, measures have been tightened after a sharp spike in infections despite a national lockdown since June 1 — people are banned from travelling back to their hometowns or crossing districts to celebrate. House visits and customary trips to graveyards are also banned.

Healthy worshippers are allowed to gather for prayers in mosques, with strict social distancing and no physical contact. Ritual animal sacrifice is limited to mosques and other approved areas.

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged Malaysians not to “repeat irresponsible behaviour,” adding that travel and celebrations during Eid al-Fitr and another festival on the island of Borneo led to new clusters of cases.

“Let us not in the excitement of celebrating the Feast of Sacrifice cause us all to perish because of Covid-19,” he said in a statement.

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

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

Lockdowns will severely curtail Eid al-Adha festivities in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities.

Sydney resident Jihad Dib, a New South Wales state government lawmaker, said the city's Muslims were sad but understood why they would be confined to their homes with no visitors allowed.

“It's going to be the first Eid in my life I don't hug and kiss my mum and dad,” Dib told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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

Iran on Monday imposed a week-long lockdown on the capital, Tehran, and the surrounding region as the country struggles with another surge in the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported. The lockdown begins on Tuesday.

Not everyone is imposing new restrictions. In Bangladesh, authorities have allowed an eight-day pause in the country's strict lockdown for the holiday that health experts say could be dangerous.

In Egypt, Essam Shaban travelled to his southern hometown of Sohag to spend Eid al-Adha with his family. He said ahead of the start of the holiday that he planned to pray at a mosque there on Tuesday while taking precautions such as bringing his own prayer rug and wearing a mask.

“We want this Eid to pass by peacefully without any infections,” he said. “We must follow instructions.”

Shaban had been looking forward to pitching in with his brothers to buy a buffalo to slaughter, going door-to-door to give some of the meat to the poor and to the traditional festive meal later in the day with his extended family.

“It's usually boisterous with laughter and bickering with the kids,” he said. “It's great.”

But others will be without loved ones.

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

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

Muslim scholars in India, where Eid will be celebrated on July 21, have been urging people to exercise restraint and adhere to health protocols. Some states have restricted large gatherings and are asking people to observe the holiday at home.

Meanwhile the pandemic's economic fallout, which threw millions of Indians into financial hardship, has many saying they cannot afford to buy sacrificial livestock.

In Kashmir, a disputed, Muslim-majority region, businessman Ghulam Hassan Wani is among those cutting back. “I used to sacrifice three or four sheep, but this year we can hardly afford one,” Wani said.

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News Network
July 29,2021

Bengaluru, July 29: Amid new ministry formation buzz, seventy-one years old former deputy chief minister KS Eshwarappa has made a curious statement that many changes will take place in the party following Basavaraj Bommai becoming the new chief minister of Karnataka.

"Basavaraja Bommai has just been chosen as the new chief minister. There will be many changes (in the party). Wait and watch," he told reporters yesterday.

Against this backdrop, the seers of backward communities have warned the BJP of grave consequences if Eshwarappa is not given the post of deputy chief minister.

Speaking to reporters, Shantamayya Shivacharya Swamiji said, "Eshwarappa has built the party in Karnataka. He was supposed to be the chief minister, but the central leadership decided otherwise. Therefore, they should give him the post of deputy chief minister. Otherwise, the BJP will face the consequences in the next few days."

Political pundits are linking this statement with 65-year-old former chief minister Jagadish Shettar's decision to opt out of the ministerial race. They are speculating that many senior leaders and non-performing ministers in the previous ministry led by BS Yediyurappa will not get ministerial berths.

It will be a carbon copy of what the central leadership did while reshuffling and expanding the union cabinet, they are claiming.

Shettar decided to opt out of the ministerial race citing his seniority.

"After the assumption of the new Chief Minister ... I have taken the decision not to join the new ministry because I was a former chief minister. Some may argue that I didn't work under BSY's chief ministership. Okay. Since Yediyurappa was senior to me, I worked in his ministry as the revenue minister. Keeping this criterion in view, I have decided to not join the new ministry, the process of which has begun," he said.

Shettar, however, clarified that there was no pressure from the central party leadership, but it was his decision not to join the Bommai-led ministry. "This is my personal decision," he said.

In the previous ministry under the Yediyurappa-led government, Shettar was a cabinet minister holding large and medium scale industries, excluding sugar and public enterprise departments.

Shettar was 21st chief minister of Karnataka from 2012 to 2013.

In July 2012, several BJP MLAs owing allegiance to Yediyurappa called for the replacement of DV Sadananda Gowda with Shettar. After much turmoil, the central leadership agreed to make him the chief minister and was sworn-in on 12 July 2012.

Ahead of Assembly polls held in May 2013, BJP declared Shettar as its chief ministerial candidate but the party failed to retain power and Shettar had to resign. BJP had suffered a massive loss in the May 2013 Assembly elections as the Congress wrested Karnataka.

Shettar also had served as Leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly. He was also the Speaker during 2008-2009.

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News Network
August 2,2021

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The Indian women's hockey team scripted history on Monday by qualifying for the Olympic Games semifinals for the first time, beating three-time champions Australia by a solitary goal here.

A day after the Indian men's team entered the Olympic semifinals following a 49-year gap, the world no. 9 women's side also entered the history books with a phenomenally gritty performance.

Coming into the match, the odds were totally against India as in world no.2 Australia, a mighty unbeaten opponent, awaited them in the last eight round.

But the Indians, determined to prove a point, produced a strong and brave performance to eke out the narrow win over the Hockeyroos.

Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion when it mattered and converted India's lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Australians.

India's best performance in the Olympics came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games where they finished fourth out of six teams.

In that edition of the Games, women's hockey made its debut in the Olympics and the sport was played in a round-robin format with top two teams qualifying for the final.

The Rani Rampal-led side will play Argentina in the semifinal on Wednesday.

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News Network
August 4,2021

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Tokyo, Aug 4: Indian boxer Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) signed off with a bronze medal in the Olympic Games after a comprehensive 0-5 loss to reigning world champion Busenaz Surmeneli here on Wednesday, bringing an end to the country's campaign in the sport here.

Up against quite literally a bully in the ring, Borgohain was completely out-punched by the gold medal favourite, who produced a thoroughly dominating performance.

The Assam boxer also coped a one point deduction in the second round for not paying attention to the referee's instructions despite a couple of cautions.

The Indian's start was not all that bad as she stood up to the strong challenge but she came undone after Surmeneli got down to connecting her vicious hooks and body shots.

The third round was especially punishing for Borgohain, who faced two standing eight counts during the bout.

Nonetheless, Borgohain goes home a history-maker as the 23-year-old, who started her career as a Muay Thai practitioner, has become only the third Indian boxer to ensure a podium finish at the showpiece after Vijender Singh (2008) and M C Mary Kom (2012).

Hers is also the first Olympic medal in Indian boxing in nine years.

Surmeneli is also 23 and has collected two gold medals this year internationally.

The former middle-weight (75kg) boxer claims to have promised an Olympic medal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan back in 2015 itself.

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