London’s annual Eid Al-Fitr celebration returns after two-year COVID-19 hiatus

The Mayor of London hosted the 17th edition of Eid in the Square in central London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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The Mayor of London hosted the 17th edition of Eid in the Square in central London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
The Mayor of London hosted the 17th edition of Eid in the Square in central London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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The Mayor of London hosted the 17th edition of Eid in the Square in central London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
The Mayor of London hosted the 17th edition of Eid in the Square in central London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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The Mayor of London hosted the 17th edition of Eid in the Square in central London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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Updated 13 May 2022

London’s annual Eid Al-Fitr celebration returns after two-year COVID-19 hiatus

London’s annual Eid Al-Fitr celebration returns after two-year COVID-19 hiatus
  • The Eid in the Square event is hosted by the Mayor of London each year in Trafalgar Square to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan
  • This year’s event marked the 17th time it has taken place in the capital; it attracts thousands of participants, Muslims and non-Muslims alike

LONDON: An annual celebration of the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holiday returned to the UK capital at the weekend after a two-year break due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Eid in the Square, which is hosted by the Mayor of London, is held each year in Trafalgar Square to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and attracts thousands of participants, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This year’s event was the 17th.

“Many people misrepresent the religion of Islam and many Muslims are often demonized,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Arab News. “The great thing about the month of Ramadan is Muslims, like me, show non Muslims what our religion is about — charity, compassion, decency — and Eid is about bringing people together and celebrating this important festival.”




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As the threat of the pandemic recedes, Khan said that authorities in London want to see more events that reflect all religions. Easter and Vaisakhi celebrations have already taken place in the square this year, and it will host Diwali and Hanukkah events in the months ahead.

“It’s really important for us to realize here in London, for me, diversity is not a weakness but a strength,” said Khan. “But also that we don’t simply tolerate Muslims, we respect them, we embrace them, we celebrate them.

“I’m a firm believer in integration, but also understanding and respecting different people’s religious backgrounds, and I think it’s possible to be a proud Brit, a proud Londoner, somebody who is proud to be of Pakistani heritage or Asian origin, and a Muslim.”




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The first day of Eid Al-Fitr fell on Monday, May 2 this year but Eid in the Square was held on Saturday, May 7 so that more families and other visitors could attend. The event included Islamic-inspired live music, comedy, art, poetry and other cultural performances, alongside a feast of food stalls featuring cuisines from around the world.

Many people wore Eid carnival costumes and other entertainment included family-friendly activities such as calligraphy, storytelling, mehndi (henna body art), face painting, science and drama workshops, and a variety of sports activities.

Ayham Jaaron, a 42-year-old university lecturer from Palestine, was celebrating Eid in the UK for the first time and traveled to London for the event from Loughborough in Leicestershire with his wife and two children. He said he was proud to be part of the Muslim community in Britain, a society that promotes values, tolerance and equality.

 

 

“I think this is a great opportunity for the Muslim community to come together and celebrate with other people and also to enjoy the family atmosphere,” he added.

His wife, Yasmin Abu Alhla Jaaron, a 32-year-old researcher studying for a doctorate, said she was impressed to see Muslims from a variety of cultures and backgrounds all celebrating together, and touched that non-Muslims had also joined them to share the special day. She added that because she is studying abroad she is unable to join her own family to celebrate Eid but an event like this brings all people together “so it’s just like one big family. I’m very grateful for this.”

Zia Rahman, 50, a Pakistani Muslim who recently moved to London from Germany, brought his nine-year-old son to Eid in the Square. He said he was not expecting such a large turnout and wide range of family activities.




Eid in the Square is hosted by the Mayor of London and is held each year in Trafalgar Square to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)

“In Germany, I didn’t experience that; we are a small Muslim community there,” he added. “But here, there are a lot of people from different cultures and also with different beliefs, so it is nice to see them all celebrating together.”

His son, Ameen, said he was enjoying the event and it was the first time he had experienced anything like it, though he found it strange to see so many Muslims living in a non-Muslim city.

Mariem Bouchaala, 32, a financial consultant from Tunisia, also said she had never attended an event such as this before and had not expected it to be so crowded. She was accompanied by friends from several countries, including Spain, Columbia and India and said that the atmosphere “reflected the cultural part of London.”

Ahead of the celebrations, and in partnership with Eid in the Square, for the first time ever the London Eye observation wheel on the bank of the River Thames was illuminated with a crescent moon light display to celebrate the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

 

 


Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline
Updated 55 min 46 sec ago

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline

KATHMANDU: A small airplane with 22 people on board flying on a popular tourist route was missing in Nepal’s mountains on Sunday, an official said.
The plane, which was on a 15-minute scheduled flight to the mountain town of Jomsom, lost contact with the airport tower shortly after takeoff.
Police official Ramesh Thapa said there was no information on the Twin Otter aircraft and a search was underway.
It has been raining in the area for the past few days but flights have been operating normally. Planes on that route fly between mountains before landing in a valley.
It is a popular route with foreign hikers who trek on the mountain trails and also with Indian and Nepalese pilgrims who visit the revered Muktinath temple.


25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia
Updated 29 May 2022

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia
  • A total of 42 people were on the boat when it sank in bad weather on Thursday morning
  • Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands

MAKASSAR, Indonesia: Rescuers in Indonesia were searching for 25 people who were missing after a cargo boat sank in the Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi province, officials said Sunday.
A total of 42 people were on the boat when it sank in bad weather on Thursday morning while traveling from a seaport in Makassar to Kalmas Island in Pangkep Regency, said Djunaidi, the head of the provincial search and rescue agency. Like many Indonesians, Djunaidi goes by only one name.
Seventeen people were later rescued, including some by two tugboats that were at sea at the time of the incident.
Djunaidi said the search and rescue agency received new information about the location of the sunken boat on Saturday and dispatched crews to the area. Two motor boats and a search and rescue boat, along with local fishing boats and Indonesia air force helicopters, are involved in the search for the missing passengers.
The sunken vessel was initially said to be a passenger ferry, but Djunaidi later clarified that it was a cargo boat carrying construction materials. Thirty-six passengers had asked for a ride on the boat and there were six crew members.
Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, where ferries are often used as transport and safety regulations can lapse.
In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people on board sank in a deep volcanic crater lake in North Sumatra province, killing 167 people.
In one of the country’s worst recorded disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. There were only 20 survivors.


Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM
Updated 29 May 2022

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM
  • Anthony Albanese: Australia’s previous government had ‘dropped the ball’ on the Pacific, both in terms of aid and also ‘a non-engagement on values’

SYDNEY: South Pacific nations have been “very positive” about Canberra’s “re-engagement,” Australia’s new prime minister has said, as China undertakes a region-wide diplomatic offensive that is raising concerns among Western powers.
The comments from Anthony Albanese — aired Sunday in an interview with Sky News — came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting Fiji for closely watched meetings with the island nation’s leaders and others from across the region.
Wang, who began his South Pacific tour Thursday in the Solomon Islands, is expected to discuss a wide-ranging draft agreement and five-year plan that would dramatically expand security and economic cooperation with South Pacific nations.
But Albanese said Australia’s own renewed diplomatic push had been well-received.
“The response has been very positive,” Albanese said when asked about Pacific leaders’ reaction to recent efforts, including a visit to Fiji last week by new Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
The prime minister said Australia’s previous government had “dropped the ball” on the Pacific, both in terms of aid and also “a non-engagement on values.”
“For our Pacific Island neighbors, the issue of climate change is an absolute national security issue,” Albanese said.
In addition to increased action on the environment, he also touted a boost in aid and a plan to set up a defense training school in the Pacific.
During Australia’s recent election campaign, Albanese’s center-left Labor party said the school would involve forces from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang is expected to remain until at least Tuesday in Fiji’s capital, where he is to host a meeting with foreign ministers from across the Pacific.
The draft agreement and a five-year plan leaked ahead of that meeting, both obtained by AFP, would give China a larger security footprint in the region.
Australian Foreign Minister Wong warned Pacific leaders about the deal last week during her visit to Fiji.
“We have expressed our concerns publicly about the security agreement,” she said.
Beijing last month signed a wide-ranging pact with the Solomon Islands that Western governments feared could give China a military foothold in the region.


Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs

Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs
Updated 29 May 2022

Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs

Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs
  • The Chinese commercial hub of 25 million aims to essentially end from Wednesday prolonged lockdow

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Shanghai announced on Sunday further steps toward returning to more normal life and lifting a two-month COVID-19 lockdown this week, while Beijing reopened parts of its public transport, some malls, gyms and other venues as infections stabilized.
The Chinese commercial hub of 25 million aims to essentially end from Wednesday a lockdown that has severely damaged the economy and seen many Shanghai residents lose income, struggle to source food and to cope mentally with prolonged isolation.
The painful coronavirus curbs in major Chinese cities run counter to trends seen in the rest of the world, which has largely moved toward co-existing with the virus even as infections spread.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city, will ease testing requirements from Wednesday for people who want to enter public areas, said city government spokeswoman Yin Xin, adding these tweaks should encourage work resumption.
“The current epidemic situation in the city continues to stabilize and improve,” Yin said, adding Shanghai’s strategy was now “pivoting toward normalized prevention and control.”
People entering public venues or taking public transport will need to show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours, versus 48 hours previously.
Bus services within the Pudong New Area, home to Shanghai’s largest airport and the main financial district, will fully resume by Monday, officials said.
Plaza 66, an upscale mall in central Shanghai that hosts Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands, reopened on Sunday.
Authorities have been slowly relaxing curbs, with a focus on resuming manufacturing.
More people have been allowed to leave their flats, and more businesses permitted to reopen, though many residents remain largely confined to their housing compounds, and most shops limited to deliveries.
The authorities approved 240 financial institutions in the city for reopening from Wednesday, state-run Shanghai Securities News reported on Sunday, adding to a list of 864 firms released earlier this month. That is out of Shanghai’s roughly 1,700 financial firms.
The newspaper said on Saturday that the more than 10,000 bankers and traders who have been living and working in their offices since the start of lockdown were gradually returning home.
Shanghai has already allowed key manufacturers in the auto industry, life sciences, chemicals and semiconductors to resume production since late April.
In the capital Beijing, libraries, museums, theaters and gyms were allowed to reopen on Sunday, with limits on numbers of people, in districts that have seen no community COVID-19 cases for seven consecutive days.
The districts of Fangshan and Shunyi will end work-from-home rules, while public transport will largely resume in the two districts as well as in Chaoyang, the city’s largest. Still, restaurant dining remains banned city-wide.
Shanghai reported just over 100 daily COVID-19 cases on Sunday, while Beijing recorded 21, both mirroring a nationwide downtrend.


North Korea moves to soften curbs amid doubts over COVID-19 counts

North Korea moves to soften curbs amid doubts over COVID-19 counts
Updated 29 May 2022

North Korea moves to soften curbs amid doubts over COVID-19 counts

North Korea moves to soften curbs amid doubts over COVID-19 counts
  • Kim Jong Un and other Politburo members ‘made a positive evaluation of the pandemic situation being controlled and improved across the country’

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions during a meeting Sunday, state media reported, as they maintained a widely disputed claim that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak is slowing.
The discussion at the North’s Politburo meeting suggests it will soon relax a set of draconian curbs imposed after its admission of the omicron outbreak this month out of concern about its food and economic situations.
Kim and other Politburo members “made a positive evaluation of the pandemic situation being controlled and improved across the country,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
They also “examined the issue of effectively and quickly coordinating and enforcing the anti-epidemic regulations and guidelines given the current stable anti-epidemic situation,” KCNA said.
On Sunday, North Korea reported 89,500 more patients with fever symptoms, taking the country’s total to 3.4 million. It didn’t say whether there were additional deaths. The country’s latest death toll reported Friday was 69, setting its mortality rate at 0.002 percent, an extremely low count that no other country, including advanced economies, has reported in the fight against COVID-19.
Many outside experts say North Korea is clearly understating its fatality rate to prevent any political damage to Kim at home. They say North Korea should have suffered many more deaths because its 26 million people are largely unvaccinated against COVID-19 and it lacks the capacity to treat patients with critical conditions. Others suspect North Korea might have exaggerated its earlier fever cases to try to strengthen its internal control of its population.
Since its May 12 admission of the omicron outbreak, North Korea has only been announcing the number of patients with feverish symptoms daily, but not those with COVID-19, apparently because of a shortage of test kits to confirm coronavirus cases in large numbers.
But many outside health experts view most of the reported fever cases as COVID-19, saying North Korean authorities would know how to distinguish the symptoms from fevers caused by other prevalent infectious diseases.
The outbreak has forced North Korea to impose a nationwide lockdown, isolate all work and residential units from one another and ban region-to-region movements. The country still allows key agricultural, construction and other industrial activities, but the toughened restrictions have triggered worries about its food insecurity and a fragile economy already hit hard by pandemic-caused border shutdowns.
Some observers say North Korea will likely soon declare victory over COVID-19 and credit it to Kim’s leadership.
Yang Un-chul, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said the North’s recently elevated restrictions must be dealing a serious blow to its coal, agricultural and other labor-intensive industrial sectors. But he said those difficulties won’t likely develop to a level that threatens Kim’s grip on power, as the COVID-19 outbreak and strengthened curbs have given him a chance to boost his control of his people.