COVID-19 hits California’s ‘Little Baghdad’ hard, hopes rise for Ramadan

amadan is here, but with people stuck at home to avoid coronavirus, it's far from business as usual for Muslim shop owners in El Cajon, California’s “Little Baghdad.” (Screenshot)
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Updated 28 April 2020

COVID-19 hits California’s ‘Little Baghdad’ hard, hopes rise for Ramadan

  • The hectic times for the owners started with customers’ mad dash for food and sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic

EL CAJON, California: Ramadan is here, but with people stuck at home to avoid coronavirus, it's far from business as usual for Muslim shop owners in El Cajon, California’s “Little Baghdad.”

The hectic times for the owners started with customers’ mad dash for food and sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic.

"They shopped enormously since one or two months, anyone who had the ability and the capacity to shop, filled his spaces, and the raise in the prices made people feel weak and this had a negative effect on our business, which obliged us to release some workers because there’s no work anymore," shopkeeper Karam Kamal said. "We are prepared for Ramadan like every year but I do not expect that Ramadan will be the same."

Now, sales are down by a reported 85 percent from before the shutdown and the entrepreneurs say they're hoping sales will increase during the Holy month, but the outlook is uncertain.

Saad Jemaa, manager at the King Price Market said: "The market is very weak and almost no one is shopping for the items related to the Holy month, we wish that this fact changes in the upcoming days, so that people can move freely away from this threatening virus."

There has been a silver lining for some business owners. While their customer base usually consists of the city’s 100,000 plus Arab citizens, some Halal markets are seeing increases in takeout sales up to 30%, thanks to new communities of customers.

Alaa Al Saadoun, the owner of Al-Anwar meat shop said: "They’ve been asking for the meat more than before. Especially as they believe it’s cleaner, Americans have started asking for the Halal meat."


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 54 min 14 sec ago

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.