Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations

Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations
Abbas Al Haj Ahmed talks with his cousin Adam Bazzi over a video call while their family eats at iftar. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 May 2020

Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations

Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations
  • Eid is neither the first nor only religious holiday to fall victim to the virus
  • Muslim community figures and imams have stated that they will be livestreaming their Eid prayers to ensure that people adhere to lockdown and curfew rules, wherever they are in the world

LONDON: Muslims across the globe are bracing themselves for an unprecedented Eid Al-Fitr, one where lavish lunches and rooms filled with relatives and loved ones will be replaced with laptops and tablets.

Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that Eid Al-Fitr will begin on Sunday, May 24. This year, however, Muslims around the world are being forced to adapt to new circumstances given the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Movement and large gatherings have been prohibited in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to receive some ka’ak cookies from my aunties, but I’ll be spending Eid alone. My parents live in China. I might ask them to have a video call with me. I miss them,” Sara Ahmad, who lives in Cairo, told Arab News.

“I always used to go for Eid prayers with my family on the morning of, but since mosques are closed, I might do it alone at home,” she said.

“If I get really lonesome, then I might stop by an aunt’s house for breakfast. I’ll be sure to have no physical contact with her though,” Ahmad added.

Eid is neither the first nor only religious holiday to fall victim to the virus. Last month, Christians around the world also had to celebrate Easter at home. Pope Francis livestreamed his Easter vigil from an empty St. Peter’s Basilica after conducting a Good Friday service to usher in the festival weekend.

“I live in a hotel in India and I’m quarantined there. I asked permission from the hotel manager to let my Indian friend join me tomorrow,” Lebanese Sarah Siblini told Arab News.

“Otherwise I’ll be having a zoom call with my family and another one with university friends from around the world,” she said.

After traveling back to Lebanon from Dubai, Lebanese consultant Houssam Rifai was forced to self-isolate for 14 days following rules issued by the government for everyone coming into the country from abroad.

“It’s been very tough not seeing anyone for this long,” Rifai told Arab News on his ninth day of self-isolation.

“And now I’ll have to spend Eid in an Airbnb alone. Usually, we have a huge lunch at my grandma’s place with family from all over the country, even some who travel back to Beirut from abroad like me,” he said.

“I’ll have a video call with my parents and speak to my friends, but this is definitely not the Eid I was expecting,” he added. 

Much like their Christian counterparts, Muslim community figures and imams have stated that they will be livestreaming their Eid prayers to ensure that people adhere to lockdown and curfew rules, wherever they are in the world.

In the UK, imams sought to use both livestreams and WhatApp groups to ensure the tradition continues, albeit with a few changes. Many, however, say that a virtual Eid is not the same as an in-person one.

“Usually, I would go to the market and get some food and desserts. Then at night, I would go to the mosque for Eid prayers and meet up with friends at restaurants afterward,” Syrian Zouhir Al-Shimale, who lives in London, told Arab News.

“I would also go visit my brothers and their families, but now everything has changed.”

While many have been adopting a virtual approach to Eid, others have chosen to still meet in person while maintaining the appropriate distance from one another.

“I’ve been going to my village almost every year since I was a baby. We are a big extended family, and we usually gather at my grandpa’s, but this year not everyone feels comfortable with gathering,” Beirut-based Aya Chamseddine told Arab News.

“Some feel guilty; they’ll just drive to say hi to grandparents and go back to Beirut,” she said. “It’s definitely not the same.”


Iranian missiles land close to ship, 100 miles from US aircraft carrier strike group in Indian Ocean

Iranian missiles land close to ship, 100 miles from US aircraft carrier strike group in Indian Ocean
Updated 18 min 29 sec ago

Iranian missiles land close to ship, 100 miles from US aircraft carrier strike group in Indian Ocean

Iranian missiles land close to ship, 100 miles from US aircraft carrier strike group in Indian Ocean
  • At least two other Iranian ballistic missiles exploded on impact when they hit the ocean
  • Nimitz has remained in the northern Arabian Sea on the orders of outgoing President Donald Trump

LONDON: Long-range Iranian missiles rained down dangerously close to a commercial ship in the Indian Ocean on Saturday and 100 miles from the US Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group, Fox News reported. 

US officials, who wished to remain anonymous, said that at least one of the missiles landed 20 miles from the commercial vessel.

At least two other Iranian ballistic missiles exploded on impact when they hit the ocean, about 100 miles away from the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group.

Shards of debris flew in all directions on impact, the US news channel said. 

"We were expecting the missile launch," an official told Fox News, but there was concern about just how close Iran was willing to push its limits. 

Nimitz has remained in the northern Arabian Sea on the orders of outgoing President Donald Trump.

The Pentagon changed its mind and ordered the Nimitz to turn around and remain in the region earlier this month after it left the Arabian Gulf and was due to return home.

“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other US government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment,” Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said on January 3. 

“The USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the US Central Command area of operations.”

January 3 marked the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Islamic Republic has vowed to avenge the general’s death.