Sri Lankan Muslims observe quiet Eid at home

A family pray on the rooftop of their residence in Colombo on Sunday during the Eid Al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of Ramadan. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 May 2020

Sri Lankan Muslims observe quiet Eid at home

  • On low-key Eid celebrations, leaders say nation must stand together to stop disease

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Muslims are staying at home during this year’s Eid Al-Fitr as the island country enforced a nation-wide curfew on Sunday and Monday to prevent mass gatherings and the spread of the coronavirus. 

All-Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) President Sheikh Rizwe Mohammed told Arab News on Sunday that the Muslim community had followed the government’s guidelines and avoided group meetings and congregational prayers.

“We are happy that the Muslims enjoyed the company of their kith and kin at home, holding prayers at their own homes,” he said. He added that although the community had been badly affected by job losses during the two-month lockdown to control the coronavirus, the focus of the nation was to stand together and stop the disease.  

To express their support for the government and solidarity with law enforcers, Muslims in Colombo’s Aluthkade area decorated their police station on the eve of Eid.

Director of the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs M.B.M. Ashraff told Arab News that he had instructed imams not to hold congregational prayers. At each mosque, only the imam and muezzin were allowed to be inside to announce the call for Eid prayers through loudspeakers.

Muslims were also advised to avoid their traditional Eid visits to graveyards and avoid all types of public gatherings, including the distribution of alms, Ashraff said. They were requested to conduct all charity activities in coordination with police and local medical officers.

The stricter controls on charity follow a deadly incident in Colombo’s densely populated Maligawatte suburb on Thursday, when private donations were distributed to the poor in the Muslim-dominated area and three women died in the resulting stampede.

N.M. Ameen, president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told Arab News that no disturbances had so far been observed during this year’s Eid.

Ameen said that Muslims had been asked to avoid Eid shopping. “Instead, opt for online purchasing and home delivery, which is more convenient and also safer in the current context,” he said.

Although the plea was generally followed, some middle-class Muslim women in parts of Colombo were seen shopping in the Pettah area, where a number of shops remained open.

One of them, Noor Jezima, justified her decision by saying that she needed to buy clothes and gifts to reward her children for obediently fasting during the month of Ramadan. “As parents, we have to encourage our children to do good deeds with some incentives,” she said.

Pregnant pause: Afghan women urged to delay motherhood due to virus crisis

Updated 12 min 53 sec ago

Pregnant pause: Afghan women urged to delay motherhood due to virus crisis

  • Couples are being advised to space their next pregnancy
  • Pregnant women are five times more likely than other women to be hospitalized in intensive care units

KABUL: Afghan health officials are urging women to delay plans to become pregnant during the coronavirus outbreak or until a vaccine is available to treat the deadly disease.
Akmal Samsor, a Ministry of Public Health official, told Arab News on Saturday that couples are being advised to space their next pregnancy because pregnant women are five times more likely than other women to be hospitalized in intensive care units.
The move follows a public awareness campaign launched by the ministry on July 1, advising couples “about the use of family planning methods to avoid pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to ministry spokesman Masooma Jafari.
In one of the videos posted on the ministry’s social media page, Dr. Homaira Ayoubia talks to couples about the “gravity” of the COVID-19 crisis, warning that the dangers involved are “much greater for pregnant women than nonpregnant women.”
Ayoubia said: “Bring a necessary gap for the next round of pregnancy so that you and your child become immune.” 
The warning was issued as the country remains in lockdown with 34,366 infections and almost 1,000 deaths recorded as of Saturday. Women make up 22 percent of the total fatalities.
Almost 1 million children are born in Afghanistan every year, adding to pressures faced by the health-care system in the war-torn country, which has an estimated population of 33 million.
With almost 3 million people dying in the almost four decades of war, many Afghans prefer to have more than one child.
Afghanistan’s health facilities are considered to be extremely poor, with official data showing that more than $300 million is spent in medical tourism by Afghans seeking treatment abroad, mostly in India, every year.
The coronavirus outbreak has added to the pressures faced by the health-care system and the government, which has come under sharp criticism for its mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.
Since the outbreak and subsequent lockdown in March, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that an estimated 450 million women, from across the world, were either using contraceptives or avoiding visiting health facilities due to a fear of contracting the virus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as social distancing and other strategies to reduce transmission, is anticipated to affect the ability of these women to continue using contraception,” the UNFPA said in its findings published in April.
“Clinical staff occupied with the COVID-19 response may not have time to provide services, or may lack personal protective equipment to provide services safely. Health facilities in many places are closing or limiting services,” it added.
Afghan doctors say the ministry’s directive is a step in the right direction.
“Access to services for pregnant women is a concern during the pandemic. An increase in the number of births while access to services is limited could increase maternal and newborn mortalities,” Homa Jalil, a gynaecologist at a government run-hospital, told Arab News.
Others suggest the government needs to do more to safeguard public health.
“There is a high risk factor for pregnancy in Afghanistan, and serious preventive steps are needed to reduce the risk,” Mohammed Nawrooz Haqmal, an Afghan health expert based in the UK, said.
He doubted many will follow the advice of the ministry to delay pregnancy since instructions on the lockdown had been widely ignored in recent months.
Ministry spokesperson Masooma Jafari voiced the same concern.
“We cannot be certain that people will follow the advice. However, we shouldn’t ignore the effect of awareness programs on people. The ministry will do its best to advise people on the consequences of pregnancy during the crisis and provide services to pregnant women,” she said.