SELAMAT Hari Raya Puasa! As usual, the annual Muslim festival is celebrated with plenty of pomp and vibrant decorations all over Singapore. There’s been the colourful Geylang Serai Bazaar, a giant light-up featuring Malay heritage icons and even jazzed-up trains. Two Hari Raya themed trains were launched last Thursday (Jun 22) to celebrate. This is the first time that trains are decorated for the occasion, with designs including ketupat decals on the windows. Some carriages are decorated to look like a fully-furnished living room; complete with carpet, couch and curtain decals.
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But in other parts of the world, it’s not just all celebration. We look at how muslims around the world would be spending Eid this year:
1. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: holiday extended by a week
Image by Wikimedia Commons user Sreejithk2000.
Government employees in Saudi Arabia will be receiving a longer vacation than they had initially expected after the Saudi government extended the Eid holiday by a week on Wednesday (Jun 21). Previously, employees had the final ten days of Ramadan off work and some time away for Eid as well. Their break began on June 16 and will end on July 8.
However, employees in the private sector questioned the extra time off from work given only to government employees. One Twitter user felt that those in the private sector were “not counted as citizens of this country”.
2. Doha, Qatar: Families face tough decision on whether to leave amid blockade
To leave or to stay: This is the question that has been haunting at least 6,500 families with mixed citizenships, as reported by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee. The Qatar blockade announced on Jun 5 cut off air, land, and sea links with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt. The first three also told their citizens to leave Qatar by last Monday (Jun 19).
A Qatari single mother, whose ex-husband was a Bahraini, faced the prospect of being separated from her children. After getting divorced in 1999, she had since brought her three children up in Qatar. But her children’s Bahraini citizenship required them to leave the country immediately.
The timing of this crisis could not be more tragic with the Eid holiday fast approaching – a time when families traditionally reunite. “The social fabric of [the region] is being torn apart for political reasons and we will not allow ourselves to be a party to this injustice,” government spokesman from Saudi Arabia Sheik Saif bin Ahmed al Thani said last Monday.
3. Xinjiang, China: Annual gathering of Uighur Muslims closely watched by authorities
Living as a Muslim in China can be controversial, given ethnic clashes in recent years. But that has not stopped the country’s 20 million Muslims from having vibrant celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr every year, albeit under the cautionary eye of the local authorities, which introduced fresh regulations clamping down on the community this year.
Of the country’s 56 ethnicities, over ten are majority Muslim – notably, the Uighur and Hui people, from the Xinjiang and Ningxia provinces respectively. In both provinces, Eid-al-Fitr is a public holiday for all residents, and the roads are toll-free on that day.The largest Eid gathering happens in the Uighur city of Kashgar, where the Turkic-speaking Uighurs gather at the Id Kah Mosque for prayers, followed by music and dancing on the streets.
The Chinese government forbids officials from taking part in the celebrations, given the state’s official stance on secularism. Earlier in April, the central government also banned wearing a veil and sporting an “abnormal” beard, a move which was widely criticised as targeting Muslims.
Syrian refugees in Turkey are heading back home this Hari Raya after the capital of Turkey, Ankara, gave them the right to return a month after the Eid festival. Many are thrilled at being given the opportunity to visit their homeland. But some have decided to leave Turkey for good because of the difficulties in finding jobs there. They believe that employment opportunities are better in Syria.
Although Syrians have been given work permits since 2016, they are still unable to make a living out of the scarce employment opportunities which often deprive them of employee rights such as being able to take a leave of absence.
Turkey currently hosts around 3.5 million refugees – the largest number of refugees worldwide. At least 3000 of them have crossed Turkish borders into Syria by foot on Thursday (Jun 15). Anyone who wishes to return to Turkey will be treated as new arrival and go through the normal immigration process.
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