Muslims in India, Bangladesh celebrate Eid subdued by virus

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Indian Muslims gather for Eid al-Fitr prayers inside their house in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 25, 2020. The holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, a usually joyous three-day celebration has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

DHAKA – Muslims in India and Bangladesh joined prayers to celebrate a subdued Eid-al Fitr on Monday, marking the end of the Ramadan holy month by seeking blessings for a world free from coronavirus.

Across India, government leaders and imams appealed to Eid celebrants to follow lockdown norms and maintain social distance. Bangladesh's leader stressed public safety in her Eid greetings.

The three-day holiday that begins by the sighting of the moon is usually a time of travel, family gatherings and feasts after weeks of dawn-to-dusk fasting. But this year, Muslims were praying at home, their celebrations quieter and tinged with worry about the virus and the impact of lockdowns and other restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Outside New Delhi's iconic Mughal-era Jamia mosque, closed as part of a ban on religious congregations, security officers patrolled the streets and almost all shops were closed barring a sweet shop. Police made rounds on motorbikes and a mini police camp stood just outside a gate.

“It’s been 1,400 years since the Islam religion was founded, ... even our elders could never imagine that we will have to celebrate Eid in such a way,” said businessman Shehzad Khan.

He said money typically spent buying new clothes to wear for Eid was sent to the poor, who have lost livelihoods due to the virus and the measures taken to contain it. "That money we have given them so that they too can celebrate Eid with us,” Khan said.

In Bangladesh, authorities asked people to avoid mass prayers in open fields, which draw tens of thousands normally. Devotees could join prayers at mosques by maintaining safe distances.

On Monday morning, those praying in the country's more than 300,000 mosques wore masks, and many wore gloves as well.

In the capital’s main Baitul Mokarram mosque, thousands joined the prayers in phases as authorities allowed them to enter in groups and prayers were held every hour. Many waited in lines for more than an hour to enter the premises.

“This is a new experience. We never felt like this,” government official Abdul Halim said after attending the prayer in Dhaka.

“I did not bring my two sons for the prayers, they are staying home. My family could not visit my parents this time,” he said.

India has climbed to among the world’s largest outbreaks with more than 138,000 cases and 4,000 deaths. It has eased its strict lockdown in recent weeks, including allowing domestic flights to resume starting Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his greetings to Muslims.

“Eid Mubarak!” Modi tweeted. “May this special occasion further the spirit of compassion, brotherhood and harmony. May everyone be healthy and prosperous,” he said.

New cases and deaths from COVID-19 are rising in Bangladesh, which has confirmed 35,585 cases and 501 deaths.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered Eid greetings but stressed the need for maintaining health guidelines and for individuals to stay safe.

“Your safety is in your hands. Remember that if you remain safe, you are also keeping your family, neighbors and the country safe,” she said in an address to the nation.


Associated Press journalist Rishi Lekhi in New Delhi contributed to this report.