Eid celebrations dampened by pandemic

Dr Mohammad Didare Alam Muhsin

The country is going to celebrate the holy Eid-ul-Fitr once again amid the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. While on the one hand, after month-long fasting, people from all walks of life are avidly waiting for celebrating the Eid festivities together with family and friends, there is a fear on the other hand that the infections that has just begun to subside will surge again. The new form of coronavirus that has been rampant in the neighboring country is also eye-catching. There is evidence that this variant has already entered the country. It is difficult to say if it has already spread to some areas in the country and, if so, how far. What a horrible situation may arise if this variant spreads across the country during the Eid journey of people going home and coming back — it is just shivering to think of. So, what options are there other than imposing lockdown to keep people locked in their workplaces? And Eid celebrations in lockdown! What a horrible situation! That is what was left to see again and again.

Among the devout Muslims of this country, the fast of Ramadan and the subsequent Eid both give rise to special emotions. Everyone welcomes Ramadan with great enthusiasm. A heavenly atmosphere is created everywhere in the society. Roza, Iftar, Taraweeh and Seheri — each episode comes up with an exceptional consonant.  In particular, at the moment of Iftar, when everyone, with the Iftar items in front of him, is eagerly waiting for the call of the Muazzin, and all the people across the country end their fast at the same time, a fancy atmosphere is created. Many people organize Iftar together in houses, neighborhoods, clubs, and restaurants — formally / informally. The huge gathering at the mosques of Taraweeh, JumatulBidah and LailatulQadr is truly amazing.

People fast one by one, worship Allah and wait eagerly for that special day gifted by the Almighty — the day of Eid, the day of joy, the day of celebration. Everyone draws his own plan to celebrate the day in style. From the middle of Ramadan, there is a rush to buy new clothes, shoes, and sandals. Everyone wants to decorate himself in a unique style on this special day. When the long-awaited day finally arrives after a full month of hard fasting, the way people get busy with the sight of the moon, the participation in the Eid congregation and the hugging at the end of the congregation and the ‘Eid Mubarak’ greeting, unequivocally reflects that today is a really happy day.

Who wants to miss this wonderful opportunity? Not a festive Bengali. So, on Eid holidays, they rush to their hometowns or villages, by buses, trains, or launches, whatever transport they can avail. The purpose is to share the joy of Eid festival with relatives and neighbors. Who can stop this flow of homebound people? To deal with the ongoing COVID situation, the government has stopped long-distance public transport to control the flow of homebound people. Has there been any benefit? The overcrowding at the ferries does not reflect that at least. People are huddled together in private transport or one short-distance public transport after another. Is this proof once again that such a ‘limited lockdown’ does not really work? The fact is that we have not been able to motivate the people. Experts have repeatedly suggested involving people’s representatives and political and social activists. It is not possible to implement such an action plan using only law enforcement. There is one more thing to consider. Religious leaders can play an important role in motivating the people on such issues. Doesn’t Islam teach that stay where you are during an epidemic?

Many people have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID pandemic and ‘lockdown’. The status of low-income working class has become more marginal. The owners and workers of public transport that is closed seems to have a blow to their heads. The Eid season is a special opportunity for them in the whole year to earn a living. The same applies to the merchants engaged in the manufacture and sales of Eid goods, such as clothes, shoes, and sandals. Although the government has eased restrictions on shopping malls, the question remains as to how much business they will be able to do this season. The question is: what is the message of this Eid for the working class who are in danger of losing their livelihood or got marginalized? They, too, have family and aspirations. What can this society do for them? Their demand is very small. Does the state or society have the money to support them to continue their lives. Many devout Muslims in this country offer zakat from their savings in this month of Ramadan considering it as the rights of the poor. If you calculate, this money is huge. Can the state / government develop an effective and integrated system for the collection and distribution of this money? At least, can it take the initiative to form committees consisting of representative personalities and religious scholars at the local level?

(Dr Mohammad Didare Alam Muhsin is Professor of Pharmacy, Jahangirnagar University).