Muslims Around the World Celebrate an Unusual Eid31 Jul 2020
Today marks Eid Al-Adha for 2020. Around the world, Muslims will commemorate Allah’s generosity and mercy represented in the story of Abraham.
Like many other occasions including the Holy Month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha this year has been defined by the on-going coronavirus outbreak, with celebrations around the world scaled back and even cancelled. The annual Hajj pilgrimage itself has been severely limited, seeing the attendance of only around 1,000 hajjis.
It is truly a difficult and unusual year.
How are Muslims around the world observing the holiest of Islamic holidays?
The United Kingdom sees Eid lockdown
In the UK, Eid took place against a backdrop of rising number of coronavirus cases, requiring severe restrictions celebrations and gatherings. A number of major mosques, including the London Central Mosque, announced that they would remain shut, citing large number of worshippers expected for prayers.
Other mosques, such as in Birmingham’s Green Lane Mosque and Southampton’s Medina Mosque, saw prayers held with social distancing and masks. Other mosques and masjids around the country closed their doors and turned worshippers away once reaching capacity.
Numerous Eid celebrations, including in Birmingham’s Small Heath Park, will also not go ahead.
Things were more complicated by the sudden announcement on Thursday evening that the UK would re-implement lockdowns in northern England, in the areas of Manchester, parts of Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, all of which have significant Muslim populations. In these areas, family gatherings would not be permitted. However, adding to the confusion, pubs were not shut down.
The shambolic implementation of the northern lockdown has elicited widespread criticism of government officials, especially due to its impacts on Eid.
However, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, denied these allegations.
Meanwhile, there is a wider fear that Eid could see a spike in Islamophobia similar to that which was seen during Ramadan. Already, the fact that many areas in the north that were put under lockdown were areas of high number of Muslims have led to fears that the community would be scapegoated. Indeed, fake news blaming Muslims and immigrant communities have become more widespread since cases rose again in Leicester.
Remarks by numerous government officials, who blamed Muslim and other Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities for the rise in cases have not aided the already-tense environment.
All-in-all, Eid in the UK was rather bittersweet.
Eid with social distancing in wider Europe
Elsewhere in Europe, Eid has been a similarly downscaled and sombre affair, though not without its bright spots. In Ireland, some 200 Muslims gathered in the Croke Park Stadium to celebrate Eid. Croke Park officials had announced that they invited the local Muslim community to celebrate Eid on its grounds earlier this month.
“Normally Croke Park and our other stadia would be a hive of activity at this time of the year with the staging of games but we are living through a very different year,” Gaelic Athletic Association President John Horan said.
“We are delighted to welcome members of the Muslim community to Croke Park to mark Eid Al-Adha, an important date in the Muslim calendar,” he added.
In mainland Europe, many federations of mosques chose to keep their doors shuttered for Eid. Although much of Europe is doing better than the UK, cases have risen in recent days, prompting officials to take preventative measures. Mosques in Belgium and elsewhere called on Muslims to celebrate Eid at home and refrain from visits.
Australia sees limited exemptions for mosques but also warnings
Like the UK, Australia has been seeing growing number of COVID-19 cases too, with areas around Melbourne put under new lockdowns.
As was the case in the UK, these developments were followed by fake news putting the blame for the outbreak on Muslim and immigrant communities, raising fears of scapegoating.
Understandably, many Eid celebrations were scaled back, especially in the state of Victoria that saw some of the highest number of cases. The Prime Minister of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, called on Muslims to celebrate Eid with social distancing.
Given the growing air of Islamophobia in Australia, it was therefore surprising that when the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque in Sydney was given a one-time exemption to have 400 worshippers, instead of the standard 100 for places of worship.
The exemption, however, came with a hefty warning by the Australian Government, urging them to adhere to social distancing.
Heavy restrictions are also impacting the Muslim world
Heavy restrictions were also in place in many Muslim countries, some of which have seen renewed rises in cases.
Chief among such restrictions was the annual Hajj which saw its smallest gathering of Muslims this year, with only 1,000 people allowed.
In the neighbouring Emirates, celebrations were similarly curtailed. Although the country’s main mosques held prayers, these were done with social distancing and family gatherings were banned. However, Emiratis had a small cause for celebration after it was announced that limited flights between the UAE and India would resume, allowing Emirati citizens stranded in India to return.
Similarly, Oman’s government announced that gatherings would incur large fines.
In Jordan, the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases has allowed for curfews to be reduced by an hour, a small comfort that is expected to continue until the end of Eid. This is in contrast to the neighbouring Iraq which is seeing a massive rise in COVID-19 cases and, as a result, implemented full curfews during Eid.
In Morocco, King Mohammed VI announced that he would grant a royal pardon to 752 convicts. The pardons have been a customary feature of national and religious holidays.
The mood in Lebanon, meanwhile, is sour. The country was already nearing economic collapse in the lead-up to the coronavirus outbreak and is now teetering on the edge. With many families struggling to get by, celebrating Eid has been of low priority.
Little joy or comfort for those in warzones
Unfortunately, many Muslim countries remain at the grips of war and conflict, and this Eid, due to war, the outbreak and massive global economic downturn, is proving especially difficult for victims of war.
The usually-bustling sheep markets of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, were empty this year due to the virus, economic collapse across the country due to low oil prices and the heavy fighting that gripped the area just some two months ago.
Similar conditions have been present in the West Bank where many Palestinians are unable to afford sheep for sacrifice. In conjunction, many areas of the West Bank remain under lockdown due to a surge of new cases.
The story is not different in the war-torn Syria where many people will be spending Eid in refugee camps. Although the war in the country has subsided compared to earlier this year, many Syrians continue to face destitution and displacement as they mark Eid.
Eid elsewhere in the world
Indeed, Muslims in other parts of the world are having a scaled-back Eid themselves. Markets in many countries have been closed or subdued, and large gatherings have been scaled back.
In India, a combination of growing Islamophobia, coronavirus and flooding has left many Muslims in the country with little to celebrate. With mass congregations banned and sale of animals regulated, many farmers say sales have been slow.
Elsewhere in southeast Asia, Eid prayers have been held, but with many measures of caution such as temperature checks.
In the US, Muslim families have been working to make the best of the circumstances. Many families are taking the lockdown conditions to keep Eid traditions alive while others are finding new ways to celebrate together.
Like most other countries, social distancing is the word of the day here, with the Maryland Council on American-Islamic Relations issuing a “#CovEID” advisory.