Muslims celebrate Eid amid COVID-19 restrictions and curfew
The government has imposed new restrictions to stem the tide of infection. Almost 900 people have reportedly died so far. Travel is limited during the curfew; non-essential activities are restricted, but for Muslims, this time brings a “spiritually high” experience to pray and heal the wounds caused by the coronavirus.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan Muslims are celebrating Eid-al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer. This comes as the authorities impose new restrictions and limits to contain the latest coronavirus wave that is sweeping the country,
For Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, just under 10 per cent of the country’s population, this is usually an time to meet and celebrate together.
This year, while upholding health guidelines and accepting “positively all the rules and regulations,” Muslims still want to celebrate the occasion because it is considered a “blessing by all citizens”.
However, last night Sri Lankan authorities cancelled all important religious festivals and introduced restrictions on nationwide travel to contain the spread of the coronavirus. So far the official death toll has reached 892.
As of yesterday until 17 May, a curfew is in place from 11 pm to 5 am across the island. According to General Shavendra Silva, head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak, people will not be able to leave their homes nor engage in any non-essential activities, like restaurants. Doctors and medical staff as well as people involved in food supplies are exempt.
A Muslim businessman, Abdul Salmankhan, owner of a telecommunications equipment shop in Colombo, accuses the country’s leaders of being “reckless from the start”. In his view, everyone ‘has become a victim. Muslims in particular today. We have to celebrate our Eid Mubarak at home.”
Because of the restrictions, celebrations will be low key, but “spiritually high”, he said. “We pray to heal wounds in Sri Lanka and the world.”
M.S.S. Muneer, an activist and member of the All Ceylon Muslim League in Negombo, plans to pray “for all nations who face this epidemic,” that they may have “speedy recovery”.
For a month, during Ramadan, “we have suppressed all thoughts and desires,” he explained, now, it will not be difficult “to maintain that restraint for a few more days and help create a healthy atmosphere in the country”.
For Sheik Abdullah Abdul Rahaman, a Muslim preacher, “we must take responsibility for each other’s safety” during this difficult time, and “care for the well-being of others” while not getting “discouraged about the rules”.
Believers can pray at home with their families and this “is a blessing,” in his view, not something to be regretted since it enables everyone “to worship God in the unity of the whole family.”
To mark Eid, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sent a message of good wishes to the Muslim community, calling on them to work together for the peace and harmony of the nation.
“Without a doubt, the appeal to save humankind from the lethal COVID-19 pandemic is among the wishes of our Muslim citizens,” the president said. "On the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, I offer my best wishes with the expectation that all those virtuous wishes may come true.”