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News >  Religion

Millions of Muslims celebrate Eid as pandemic restrictions ease

July 10, 2022 Updated Sun., July 10, 2022 at 8:41 p.m.

By Annabelle Timsit Washington Post

Millions of Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha – a major Islamic holiday that marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia – as the easing of coronavirus restrictions allows worshipers to gather.

President Joe Biden called the festivities a “symbol of the progress we have made in fighting” the coronavirus but warned that the pandemic is not over yet.

“While COVID-19 restrictions remain, Muslims draped in white will be able to gather from around the world for the first time in two years to perform the Hajj,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.

“It’s a symbol of the progress we have made in fighting this pandemic and of all work we must still do to strengthen our recovery. Let us all take this opportunity to renew our shared commitment to work for peace, care for the vulnerable, and pursue greater equality and opportunity for all people,” he added.

Even as many countries have loosened their public health restrictions however, global cases of COVID-19 have continued to rise week by week, in a surge driven largely by sub-variants of omicron.

There were more than 4.6 million new cases reported globally to the World Health Organization last week. New cases in Southeast Asia – a region that includes countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world, such as Indonesia, India and Bangladesh – grew by 20% between June 27 and July 3.

In some parts of the world, Eid celebrations were restricted last year due to the pandemic, with strict limits on the number of worshipers allowed into Mecca, the holy city toward which Muslims pray every day.

Eid al-Adha falls on the last day of the hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is meant to undertake at least once in their life.

This year, Saudi authorities have allowed about 850,000 Muslims from abroad to enter Saudi Arabia for the hajj. Pilgrims are chosen via lottery, and must be under 65, vaccinated against the coronavirus and have recently tested negative for covid-19.

While Saudi Arabia has softened its national mask mandate, masks are still required inside Mecca and Medina and some restrictions are in place around the Kaaba, the holy shrine at the center of the Great Mosque of Mecca.

Outside Saudi Arabia, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha with prayers and large gatherings of family and friends. The festival is joyful, and a chance to share a meal with loved ones.

This year, the holiday falls between July 9 and 13. Muslims and non-Muslims wishing to mark the occasion can greet each other by saying “Eid Mubarak.”

Many Muslims sacrifice animals – including sheep, goats, cows and camels – to mark the Quranic story of the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened and gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead.

The tradition on one of Islam’s two main festivals is to share the meat among their family, friends and those in need.

Even in Ukraine, as war with Russia raged, Muslims marked Eid al-Adha in mosques.

In Russia, photos show large-scale public prayers taking place under the watchful eye of security officers.

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