DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — 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.
The iconic Mughal-era Jamia mosque in New Delhi remained closed as part of a ban on religious congregations to stop the spread of the virus. Outside, 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 one of the gates.
“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 have asked people to avoid mass prayers in open fields, locations that can draw tens of thousands normally. While big congregations were banned in the Muslim-majority nation, devotees could join prayers at mosques by maintaining safe distances.
Those praying in the country's more than 300,000 mosques during the morning 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 greeting 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 were rising in Bangladesh, which has 33,000 cases and 480 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.