Muted Eid celebrations in Italy this year because of pandemic

In past years many prayers and ceremonies for Eid Al-Fitr have been performed in outdoor spaces to encourage participation. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Muted Eid celebrations in Italy this year because of pandemic

  • In past years many prayers and ceremonies for Eid Al-Fitr have been performed in outdoor spaces to encourage participation and to include local population in those moments of feast and celebration

ROME: Mosques and prayer rooms in Italy will not hold prayers and communal moments for Eid Al-Fitr this year, the Islamic communities in Italy have announced. The Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII) said it would keep worship places closed to congregations until Ramadan ends.
For Eid Al-Fitr only common prayers in outdoor places may be performed; smaller turnouts are generally expected compared to last years’ celebrations. One such outdoor gathering will be taking place at the abandoned city racecourse in Prato, a textile city 30 km from Florence.
The city’s Muslim community of more than 5,000 members has been busy during Ramadan doing charity work and distributing food bags and money for those who have been badly hit by economic hardship due to pandemic.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday the Muslims of Prato will end their Ramadan fasting and meditation in the park of the former Hippodrome, an unusual setting but one that allows them to adhere to the rules on social distancing. Two hundred faithful have announced to Imam Najib Lamzouri that they will join him on the grass to recite the prayers together on one of the most important days in Islam.
Those who attend have been warned that they must wear a mask and must keep a distance of at least two meters from others.
Imam Najib Lamzouri said the ceremony would consist of a one-hour recitation of the verses of the Qur’an; after final greetings Eid Al-Fitr will begin.
“The fact of being able to celebrate the end of the fasting period with other Muslims seems to drive away the last bad memories of the lockdown,” Lamzouri explained.
The outdoor morning ceremony was made possible through an agreement between the local Islamic community and Simone Mangani, the responsible councilor in the city administration.
“Many people will not come this year to our common prayer as they are afraid of the virus,” Mazig Abdelmoula, president of the Al-Magrheb association and representative of the Arab community of Prato, told the local newspaper Il Tirreno. “This year we will not be able to attend the celebrations all together. After the prayer on the last day of Ramadan, everyone will return to their homes. There every family will be able to celebrate, to feast in their private space, even though this year we expect everything to stay low profile.”
In past years many prayers and ceremonies for Eid Al-Fitr have been performed in outdoor spaces to encourage participation and to include local population in those moments of feast and celebration.
Last year at the Dora Park in Turin, in northeast Italy, thousands of people attended the celebration organized by the Makkah Intercultural Center of Via Botticelli with Imam Ahmed El-Shenawy. The event in Prato is the only big event that has been announced so far this year. Even in Treviso, where the community numbers about 40,000 members, an online prayer has been organized by the 17 imams living in the area.
The Catholic hierarchy has sympathized with Islamic communities not being able to celebrate the end of Ramadan in their worship places. “Coronavirus forced Catholics to suffer from these restrictions too,” Milan Archbishop Mario Delpini said in a message on YouTube to the Islamic communities in the capital of Lombardy, the worst region in Italy.
Praising the generosity of Muslims in Milan, Archbishop Delpini wished that Muslims in Milan had enough worship places where they could safely meet. “We are all in the same boat, and we must all go forward together,” he added.
Mosques, prayer rooms and Islamic centers in Italy have been shut, along with other places of worship, since the lockdown began on March 9.

Nearly 33.000 people died of COVID-19 in Italy, the first European country where the infection spread. The government allowed the reopening of all places of worship from May 18, provided that sanitary and social distancing measures were enforced by religious authorities. But Yassine Lafram, president of UCOII, told the Italian prime minister that mosques would remain closed for Eid Al-Fitr regardless of the announcement “as a matter of responsibility”. With social distancing a key measure in the fight against the coronavirus, the organization had expressed concern that the country’s small and medium-sized mosques might not be able to enforce safety measures.
UCOII published downloadable posters on its website in Italian and Arabic language, containing mandatory prescriptions to follow when entering in a mosque or in a prayer room. All Islamic worship places have gone in the past few days through a sanitization process so that they could safely welcome back again their congregation from next week.

Related


Afghan govt frees Taliban prisoners as truce holds for second day

Updated 25 May 2020

Afghan govt frees Taliban prisoners as truce holds for second day

  • Ghani said his administration was also ready to hold peace talks with the Taliban

KABUL: Afghan authorities released 100 Taliban prisoners Monday as part of the government's response to a surprise, three-day ceasefire the insurgents called to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival.
The pause in fighting, only the second of its kind in Afghanistan's nearly 19-year-old war, appeared to be holding on day two after the government welcomed the truce by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 Taliban inmates.
President Ashraf Ghani said his administration was also ready to hold peace talks with the Taliban, seen as key to ending the war in the impoverished country.
"The government of Afghanistan has today released 100 Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison," National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
He said the prisoner release was to "help the peace process" and will continue until 2,000 prisoners are freed.
Faisal said there had been no reports of any ceasefire violations so far, adding that authorities plan to release insurgent prisoners in batches of 100 daily.
"We hope this will eventually lead to a lasting peace that the people of Afghanistan so much desire and deserve," he said.
In the northern city of Kunduz, which the Taliban attacked just days ago, calm prevailed as residents celebrated Eid at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
"Just two days ago panic had set in the city," said Atiqullah, a shopkeeper from Kunduz.
"Today, you go out and feel as if there is no more fighting. People are actually celebrating Eid."
The current ceasefire is the first initiated by the Taliban. The only other comparable pause came over Eid in 2018, and was first offered by Ghani.
The normally restive southern province of Uruzgan was also calm, police said.
"There was non-stop fighting every single day, but since the ceasefire was announced not a single shot has been fired," said Haji Lal Agha, the provincial police chief.
"It is especially good for the residents of Trinkot who would hear the sound of gunfire every day," he added, referring to the provincial capital.
There were no reports of fighting from Kandahar, once a bastion for the Taliban, and the southeast province of Khost was also peaceful, police said.
"We are carefully monitoring the ceasefire and the situation, and there has not been any major activity by the enemy since the ceasefire was announced," interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said.
He said they were, however, investigating a mortar attack on Sunday in Laghman province that killed five civilians.
Violence had escalated since the Taliban signed a deal with Washington in February to withdraw all US forces from the country by next year.
The agreement also set the stage for intra-Afghan peace talks and stipulated that the government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.
Before Sunday's announcement to free up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a "goodwill gesture", Kabul had already released about 1,000 Taliban inmates while the insurgents had freed about 300 Afghan security force captives.
The Taliban insist Kabul must release all 5,000 members as agreed in the deal with the US.
"This process should be completed in order to remove hurdles in the way of commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed the ceasefire, but insists the freed Taliban prisoners should not return to the battlefield.