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
September 17,2022

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New Delhi, Sept 17: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying eight cheetahs have come and now he should tell why 16 crore jobs weren't created in eight years.

Prime Minister Modi turned 72 on Saturday. It was a busy day for the PM who, among other things, released eight cheetahs brought from Namibia at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh under a landmark project seven decades after the animal was declared extinct in the country.

In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi said, "Eight cheetahs have come, now tell why 16 crore jobs didn't come in eight years."

"Yuvaon ki hai lalkar, le kar rahenge rozgaar (It is the cry of the youth that they will have employment)," the former Congress chief said, using the hashtag 'Rashtriya Berozgar Diwas'.

The Congress on Saturday claimed that in view of the "worrying" job situation in the country, the youth are marking the prime minister's birthday as "National Unemployment Day", and demanded that he provide employment to them as promised.

Modi promised to provide two crore jobs annually but instead only seven lakh people have been given employment in the last eight years, it claimed, adding that 22 crore people had applied for jobs. 

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News Network
September 14,2022

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Muscat, Sept 14: As many as 141 passengers were evacuated from an Air India Express plane at Muscat airport on Wednesday following a smoke warning, according to an airline source.

The incident happened while the Kochi-bound Boeing 737-800 aircraft was taxiing and after the warning, the passengers were evacuated as a precautionary measure, the source said.

According to reports, 14 passengers suffered injuries in the melee. 

There were 141 passengers and six crew members on board the aircraft that was operating flight IX 442, the source said.

Aviation regulator DGCA will probe the incident, according to an official.

Alternative arrangements are being made to bring the passengers from Muscat to Kochi, the source said.

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News Network
September 15,2022

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Bengaluru, Sept 15: The Karnataka legislative council on Thursday passed the Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, or anti-conversion bill, by a voice vote after the Congress staged a walkout. The bill was tabled in the legislative council earlier in the day.

The bill was earlier passed in the Assembly amid similar opposition from the Congress.

Leaders of both the ruling party and opposition camp have been debating this matter in the House.

Karnataka law minister JC Madhu Swamy said the Act only restricts forceful conversions.

"We haven't made any amendments which can prevent volunteer conversion. We have made amendments to restrict forceful conversions. We are protecting our religion, we have brought this bill to stop forceful conversion. Nowhere we have restricted anybody's desire," said Swamy in the council.

Congress MLC Nagaraj termed religious conversion a "private matter" and a person's right of choice.

In December, last year, the bill was passed in the assembly, but was not presented in the council due to the lack of majority, the Prohibition of Conversion Bill was not presented in the Council.

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