Irish Muslims perform Eid prayers on symbolic Croke Park pitch

A hurler positions his prayer mat on the Croke Park turf ahead of Eid Al-Adha prayers, Dublin, Ireland, 31 July, 2020. (Screengrab YouTube)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Irish Muslims perform Eid prayers on symbolic Croke Park pitch

  • Around 200 Muslims laid out prayer mats on the pitch usually used for the national sports of Gaelic football and hurling
  • Leaders of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths attended and spoke at the event, which was broadcast live on television for the first time

DUBLIN: Irish Muslims performed prayers to mark the festival of Eid Al-Adha on Friday in Dublin’s Croke Park Gaelic sports stadium, a site of historic importance for Irish nationalists who always had a deep connection with the once dominant Catholic Church.
Around 200 Muslims laid out prayer mats on the pitch usually used for the national sports of Gaelic football and hurling and where in 1920 British troops opened fire on a crowd, killing 14 people during Ireland’s War of Independence.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins described it as an important moment in Ireland’s narrative. Leaders of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths attended and spoke at the event, which was broadcast live on television for the first time.
With Muslims unable to hold large gatherings in mosques due to Covid-19 social distancing rules, Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, chair of Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council, approached the management of Croke Park, who he said did not hesitate to offer the venue.
He got the idea after an Ikea store in Germany allowed Muslims to use one of its car parks for Ramadan prayers.
“Today this Eid prayer is sending a very strong message out to the whole world, that Ireland is indeed a country of céad míle fáilte,” he told the gathering, using the Irish language greeting translated as ‘100,000 welcomes’.
“No matter how different you are, once you come and you live here and become part of the society, this island of Ireland has this great, unique ability to adopt you.”
A series of sexual abuse scandals shattered the credibility of the Catholic Church which dominated Irish society for decades after its independence from Britain. Ireland has since experienced sweeping social change, including the introduction of abortion and gay marriage in recent years.
The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, told celebrants that there was something special about recognizing publicly the Muslim community’s place “as an integral part of the family of the Irish” in Croke Park.


Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

Updated 41 min 21 sec ago

Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

  • As foreign visitors remain barred from entering the country, government plans to boost domestic tourism to keep hospitality sector afloat
  • COVID-19 has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to national revenue

JAKARTA: Indonesia will remain closed to foreign tourists at least until the end of the year, a senior minister announced during a meeting with the country’s business community on Thursday. 
As Indonesia still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said that all non-essential foreign visitors will remain barred from entering the country, while the government will try to boost domestic tourism to keep the hospitality sector afloat. 
“With regard to foreign tourists, I think we will not be welcoming them until the end of the year,” Pandjaitan said during the virtual forum with Indonesian businesspeople, shelving a plan laid out by the provincial government of the holiday island of Bali — Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination — to reopen for international visitors on Sept. 11. 
Pandjaitan’s remarks also ended speculation as to whether the central government would revoke a regulation issued by the justice minister in late March banning foreigners — except those arriving for essential, diplomatic and official purposes — from entering Indonesia amid ongoing efforts to contain the virus outbreak. 
Bali authorities were hoping for the regulation to be revoked ahead of the island’s plan to reopen to foreigners.  
Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said industry players in Bali were ready for the Sept. 11 plan but acknowledged that the central government’s decision to keep foreign arrivals suspended “must be based on a more urgent reason.” 
“There could be a macro outlook behind Jakarta’s decision, and it could be for everyone’s greater good,” Adnyana told Arab News. 
According to Pandjaitan, Indonesian authorities will focus on promoting domestic tourism as Indonesians who were planning to go for holidays abroad, including those who were set to travel for Umrah, will be unable to do so this year so due to international travel restrictions.  
“There is plenty of money around. No one is going on the Umrah pilgrimage, and those who used to go to Singapore or Penang for medical treatment are not going anywhere either. These are people with money to spend, and we estimated there could be tens of trillions of rupiahs. We want them to spend the money here,” Pandjaitan said. 
According to Umrah tour operators, about 1 million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage each year, with many of them also visiting other sites in the region. 
The COVID-19 outbreak has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to its national revenue. 
According to Adnyana, tourism in Bali alone contributed 120 trillion to 150 trillion rupiahs ($10 billion) a year to the country’s coffers. 
He also expressed concerns that the pandemic may still affect the government’s plans to revive the industry through domestic tourism as many potential travelers may be unable to make trips to other parts of the country amid concerns of contracting the disease and internal restrictions imposed as part of the response to contain the virus.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo said in his 2021 budget speech before the parliament that 14.4 trillion rupiahs would be allocated for the tourism industry’s recovery with a focus on developing several main destinations: Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Mandalika in Lombok island; Labuan Bajo on the Flores island, which serves as a gateway to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island and Mount Kelimutu, which has three volcanic crater lakes of different colors; and Likupang Beach in North Sulawesi.