Muslims around the world began marking a sombre Eid al-Fitr Sunday, many under coronavirus lockdown, but lax restrictions offered respite to worshippers in some countries despite fears of skyrocketing infections.The three-day festival, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweet treats.But this year, the celebration is overshadowed by the fast-spreading coronavirus, with many countries tightening lockdown restrictions after a partial easing during Ramadan led to a sharp spike in infections. Further dampening the festive spirit, many countries — from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Turkey and Syria — have banned mass prayer gatherings to limit the spread of the disease.Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, began a five-day round-the-clock curfew from Saturday after infections more than quadrupled since the start of Ramadan to over 72,000 — the highest in the Gulf.Mecca’s Grand Mosque has been almost devoid of worshippers since March, with a stunning emptiness enveloping the sacred Kaaba — the large cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.But on Sunday, an imam stood on a podium while Saudi security forces, some wearing masks, positioned themselves between rows of worshippers who gathered before the Kaaba for Eid prayers. Scuffles in Jerusalem At Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina, prayers were not permitted inside, although the site is expected to reopen after the Eid holiday. Small scuffles broke out between Israeli security forces and worshippers gathering around the mosque at dawn, although prayers eventually went ahead outside, an AFP photographer said. 🛑#Israel just can’t let #palestinian Muslims or Christians celebrate Hollidays in peace, During jewish holidays #palestinians are often put under a Curfew so jews can celebrateEid al-Fitr in Jerusalem | Several arrested during tensions outside Al-A-Aqsa Mosque pic.twitter.com/wZJNXbehrz— marshall (@Marshall_H15) May 24, 2020In Gaza, Hamas authorities allowed prayers in mosques despite the enclave’s first coronavirus death on Saturday, but worshippers mostly wore masks and placed their prayer mats far apart.”Eid is not Eid with the atmosphere of coronavirus — people feel a sense of fear,” worshipper Akram Taher said.In Afghanistan, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the signing of a landmark agreement with the United States. The streets of Kabul were mostly empty as part of a strict lockdown, but some people did venture out and greet each other — some from a distance and others hugging and shaking hands despite calls for social distancing.In Somalia, at least five people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a blast during Eid festivities, police said.The blast occurred as a crowd of people were dancing and singing, a witness said, but the cause of the explosion was unclear.In Indian-administered Kashmir, another troublespot, Eid celebrations were muted under the coronavirus restrictions and as authorities tightened the screws after a spate of clashes between government forces and rebels.Fears of ‘new peak’ Ahead of the holiday, Muslims across Asia — from Indonesia to Pakistan, Malaysia and Afghanistan — had thronged markets to shop, flouting coronavirus guidelines and sometimes even police attempts to disperse large crowds.”For over two months my children were homebound,” said mother of four Ishrat Jahan at a bustling market in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.”This feast is for the kids, and if they can’t celebrate it with new garments, there is no point in us working so hard throughout the year.”The holiday began on a sombre note after a Pakistan International Airline flight crashed Friday in the southern city of Karachi, killing 97 people including many who were travelling to see family for the holiday. The English daily Dawn said the crash, along with the pandemic, had robbed Pakistan of “whatever little joy had been left at the prospect of Eid festivities”.In Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — people turned to smugglers and fake travel documents to get around bans on the annual end-of-Ramadan travel that could send infections soaring. In the conservative province of Aceh, large groups prayed together with few masks and little social distancing as Eid began, and the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in the provincial capital was packed.”I did feel worried but as a Muslim, I still had to perform mass Eid prayers as a form of gratitude to Allah,” one worshipper, Arsi, said.Masjid Raya Baiturrahman. Banda Aceh ❤[email protected]@iloveaceh#IdulFitri1441H #EidMubarak pic.twitter.com/yNTH86JmZK— Rahmad Saiful Hasan (@rahmadsaifulhs) May 24, 2020COVID-19 death tolls across the Middle East and Asia have been lower than in Europe and the United States, but numbers are rising steadily, sparking fears the virus may overwhelm often underfunded healthcare systems.Frugal celebrations Iran, which has experienced the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak, called on its citizens to avoid travel during Eid as it battles to control the virus.Health Minister Saeed Namaki said Iran was focusing hard on avoiding “new peaks of the disease” caused by people “not respecting health regulations”.The United Arab Emirates has tightened its lockdown which had been relaxed during Ramadan, but that did not stop some families from planning getaways to luxury beachfront hotels.But in many countries, Muslims steeled themselves for frugal celebrations amid growing financial distress, including falling oil prices that plunged the Gulf region into its worst economic crisis in decades.In the Syrian capital Damascus, Eid shoppers rummaged through flea markets for clothes at bargain prices as the war-ravaged and sanctions-hit country grappled with a much more entrenched economic crisis.”The flea market is the only place I can buy something new to wear for the Eid holidays,” 28-year-old Sham Alloush said.”Had it not been for this place, I wouldn’t have been able to buy new clothes at all.” Topics :
The Wales international has scored in his last two matches, including his side’s opener in the entertaining 3-3 draw at Anfield, and he admits he is confident about his sharpness in and around the penalty area. “I am feeling confident in there,” said. “I know my team-mates have the ability to pick my runs out and give that final ball for me so I can get on to it. “It was a good ball from Joel (Campbell) again so I was delighted with that goal. “We have a tough game coming up against Stoke – we haven’t found it easy the last few times we have been there (no victory in five visits and three defeats) but we will be looking to get back to winning ways and get back on another run.” Press Association Arsenal’s new signing Mohamed Elneny admits he is honoured to have been signed by Arsene Wenger. The Egypt international is in line to make Sunday’s squad at Stoke after completing a drawn-out £5million transfer from Basle “subject to the completion of regulatory processes”. He is expected to be registered ahead of Friday’s noon deadline to be eligible and he cannot wait to start work with Wenger. “Arsenal is one of those teams that everyone enjoys watching and of course I would love to play for such a great team. It is an indescribable feeling (to have signed),” he told Arsenal Player. “Mr Wenger is a highly respected manager and one of the world’s best managers; it is my honour to be trained under his management. “I would like to tell (the fans) that, although you have not seen much of me, I promise I will contribute positively with the team.” The 23-year-old hopes to be able to contribute towards an ambitious treble this season having set his sights high after leaving Basle. Arsenal are top of the Premier League, in the fourth round of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the Champions League – although they face a tough challenge against defending champions Barcelona – and Elneny has big ambitions. “I am hoping that we win the Premier League and cup this season, and the Champions League as well,” he added. “Arsenal is one of the world’s greatest teams, and I am very keen to participate positively with my new team and to give my best for the team and for myself.” While the best Elneny could hope for is a place on the bench on Sunday as in-form midfielder Aaron Ramsey is set for a key role.