Indonesian, Malaysian Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr as COVID fears recede


Jakarta (Reuters) – Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia gathered in large groups to usher in the Eid al-Fitr festival on Saturday, relieved to be able to celebrate freely after the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, hundreds of worshippers turned up for morning prayers at the historic port of Sunda Kelapa in North Jakarta to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

“I’m very happy that we’re free (of COVID curbs) now,” said Laila, 35, who goes by one name like many Indonesians.

Another worshipper, 30-year old Adit Chandra, said: “I hope it gets better from here on, and that we can gather together with our families after the last three years of not being able to go back to our hometown”.

Chandra is among the more than 120 million Indonesians – nearly half the country’s population – who plan to travel from major urban centres to their hometowns for Eid al-Fitr.

That is about 44% more than the number of people who made the exodus last year, the government said.

In neighbouring Muslim-majority Malaysia, devotees also celebrated with families.

“We can visit the extended family, and do so without suspicious feelings … during the pandemic we were cautious,” said Khairul Soryati, a 39-year-old resident of Kuala Lumpur.

Muhd Nur Afham, 31, who works in Singapore said he could finally celebrate with the family in Malaysia this year after not being able to travel during the pandemic.

“I’m grateful I can meet with my families … last time we only met through video call,” he said.

Authorities in both countries have, however, urged the public to remain cautious amid reports of rising COVID cases.

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