Italy’s Muslims help needy on Eid

Signs indicating social distancing restriction measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease are seen while Muslims attend Eid Al-Fitr prayer at Piazza Vittorio Square, Rome. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 28 May 2020

Italy’s Muslims help needy on Eid

  • ‘We give for the sake of solidarity,’ says Islamic center president

ROME: Muslim communities around Italy marked the end of Ramadan with displays of unity and generosity.

During the holy month, most communities have been involved in fundraising and food distribution for families struggling amid the two-month national lockdown to halt the coronavirus pandemic. 

With many mosques following stringent social distancing rules, Eid Al-Fitr celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan were mostly held outdoors, in parks or squares, to avoid the risk of infection.

In Vigevano, near Milan, more than €5,600 ($6,000) collected during Eid Al-Fitr prayers and celebrations was given to 190 local people in need.

“We celebrated the end of the holy month as well as the end of the fast in accordance with the new security measures required by the government,” Koutir El-Mostafa, president of the Islamic El Medina cultural center, told a local newspaper.

“Everyone made some contribution when they arrived for the communal prayer. They gave what they could, even two or three euros each, for the sake of solidarity and to help those in need during this difficult time.

“In the community, we have a list of families who live in hardship. Of course, their situation became worse with the coronavirus pandemic. We will help them all and do our best,” El-Mostafa said.

The cultural center reopened after national lockdown measures were eased in mid-May.

“We could have reopened from May 18, but in order to guarantee a safe and healthy environment we decided to wait. The center is now open, but I cannot bring in all the people who come to pray,” El-Mostafa said.

Sunday prayers were held in a large parking lot with social distancing measures in place. However, children, many mothers and those aged over 70 were encouraged to stay home.

The Mosque of Mercy in Marghera, an area that includes Venice’s industrial harbor, reopened, but Eid Al-Fitr celebrations were not held inside, with the local Islamic community praying at home.

However, worshippers plan to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr in coming weeks in the park of San Giuliano, the site of last year’s gathering.

“People called us from all over northern Italy asking to come and pray at the mosque in Marghera, but we preferred to be responsible and avoid situations that could result in gatherings and put us in difficult situations,” Sadmir Aliovsky, president of the Islamic Community of Venice, said.

Now the mosque is finally open, a temperature scanner has been installed at the entrance and shifts have been organized for prayers to limit the number of people congregating at the same time.

A video in Italian has been prepared for first-generation Muslims and converts to explain the rules and protocols.

Worshippers will be required to bring personal mats, children will not be allowed entry, and people showing signs of a fever will be sent home.

Venice’s Bengali community celebrated Eid in the Kolbe center, a large hall in a city hotel rented for the occasion.

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.