Los Angeles Times

Feasting, praying and skimping

Muslims mark holiday with joy, festive meals, and sweets, even as rising prices lead to some economizin­g.


CAIRO — For the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the smell of freshly baked orange biscuits and powdered sugar-dusted cookies typically fills the air in Mona Abubakr’s home. But owing to higher prices, the Egyptian homemaker made smaller quantities of the sweet treats this year, some of which she gives as gifts to relatives and neighbors.

The mother of three has also tweaked another tradition this Eid, which began Monday in Egypt and many Muslim-majority countries and marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. She bought fewer outfits for her sons to wear during the three-day feast.

“I told them we have to compromise on some things in order to be able to afford other things,” she said.

This year, Muslims around the world are observing Eid al-Fitr — typically marked with communal prayers, celebrator­y gatherings around festive meals and new clothes — in the shadow of a surge in global food prices exacerbate­d by the war in Ukraine. Against that backdrop, many are still determined to enjoy the Eid amid the easing of coronaviru­s restrictio­ns in their countries. For others, the festivitie­s are dampened by conflict and economic hardship.

At the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, tens of thousands of Muslims attended prayers Monday morning. The Istiqlal Mosque in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, was shuttered when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and was closed to communal prayers last year.

“Words can’t describe how happy I am today after [the] two years we were separated by pandemic. Today we can do Eid prayer together again,” said Epi Tanjung after he and his wife worshiped at another Jakarta mosque. “Hopefully all of this will make us more faithful.”

The war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of grain and fertilizer, driving up food prices at a time when inflation was already raging. A number of Muslim-majority countries are heavily reliant on Russian and Ukrainian wheat imports, for instance.

Even before the Russian invasion, an unexpected­ly strong global recovery from the 2020 coronaviru­s-driven recession had created supply-chain bottleneck­s, causing shipping delays and pushing prices of food and other commoditie­s higher.

In some countries, the fallout from the war in Ukraine is only adding to the woes of those already suffering from turmoil, displaceme­nt or poverty.

In Syria’s rebel-held northweste­rn province of Idlib, this year’s Ramadan was more difficult than Ramadans past. Abed Yassin said he, his wife and three children now receive half the amounts of products — including chickpeas, lentils, rice and cooking oil — that they used to get from an aid group.

In the Gaza Strip, though streets and markets are bustling, many say they cannot afford much.

“The situation is difficult,” said one mother of five, who gave her name as Um Musab, as she toured a traditiona­l market in Gaza City. “Employees barely make a living, but the rest of the people are crushed.”

Mahmoud Madhoun, who bought some date paste, flour and oil to make Eid cookies, said financial conditions were going from bad to worse. “However, we are determined to rejoice,” he added.

The Palestinia­n enclave, which relies heavily on imports, was already vulnerable before the war in Ukraine as it had been under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade meant to isolate Hamas, its militant rulers.

Afghans are celebratin­g their first Eid amid grim security and economic conditions since the Taliban takeover in August. Many were cautious but poured into Kabul’s largest mosques for prayers Sunday, when the holiday started there, amid tight security.

Frequent explosions marred the period leading up to Eid. These included fatal bombings, most claimed by the Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-K, targeting ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiites.

“We want to show our resistance, that they cannot push us away,” said community leader Bakr Saeed before Eid. “We will go forward.”

Since the Taliban takeover, the economy has been in free fall, with food prices and inflation soaring.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar, and methodolog­ies, including moon sighting, can lead to different countries and Muslim communitie­s declaring the start of Eid on different days.

In Iraq, fewer shoppers than usual appeared to have visited the capital’s clothing markets this year. Security is also a serious issue at celebratio­ns, with security forces going on high alert from Sunday to Thursday to avert possible attacks after a suicide bombing in Baghdad last year killed dozens ahead of another major Islamic holiday.

In India, the country’s Muslim minority is reeling from vilificati­on by hard-line Hindu nationalis­ts who have long espoused anti-Muslim stances, with some inciting violence against Muslims. Muslim preachers cautioned the faithful to remain vigilant during Eid.

Indian Muslims “are proactivel­y preparing themselves to deal with the worst,” said Ovais Sultan Khan, a rights activist. “Nothing is as it used to be for Muslims in India, including the Eid.”

Still, many Muslims elsewhere rejoiced in reviving rituals disrupted by pandemic restrictio­ns.

Millions of Indonesian­s have crammed into trains, ferries and buses ahead of Eid as they pour out of major cities to celebrate with their families in villages in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The return of the tradition of homecoming caused great excitement after two years of subdued festivitie­s because of pandemic restrictio­ns.

Muslims in Malaysia were also in a celebrator­y mood after their country’s borders fully reopened and COVID-19 measures were further loosened. Ramadan bazaars and shopping malls have been filled with shoppers ahead of Eid, and many traveled to their hometowns.

“It’s a blessing that we can now go back to celebrate,” said sales manager Fairuz Mohamad Talib, who works in Kuala Lumpur, the capital. His family will celebrate at his wife’s village after two years of being apart.

There, he said, they will visit neighbors after the Eid prayers, chanting praises of the prophet Muhammad, and sharing food at each stop.

“It’s not about feasting but about getting together,” he said ahead of the holiday. With COVID-19 still on his mind, the family will take precaution­s such as wearing masks during visits. “There will be no handshakes, just fist bumps.”

 ?? Tatan Syuflana Associated Press ?? MUSLIM men offer Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Sunda Kelapa port in Jakarta, Indonesia. Many Muslims rejoiced in reviving rituals disrupted by pandemic restrictio­ns.
Tatan Syuflana Associated Press MUSLIM men offer Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Sunda Kelapa port in Jakarta, Indonesia. Many Muslims rejoiced in reviving rituals disrupted by pandemic restrictio­ns.

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