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.