KUALA LUMPUR/ JERUSALEM - Muslims in Asia marked a grim Eid al-Fitr on Monday, overshadowed by several air tragedies, including the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and conflicts in Gaza and Pakistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his message for Eid, the most important festival for Muslims marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, said the Islamic world was suffering. ‘Hundreds of people are being killed every day in Islamic countries,’ he said, highlighting the plight of those in war-torn Gaza.
‘The Afghan people are sad about the situation of people in Gaza Palestine, they are being killed ruthlessly day and night... we hope for peace, stability, development and happiness for them.’ Festivities in Muslim-majority Malaysia were also muted - with government officials cancelling their usual hosting of Eid feasts for the public - following the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17.
Two other passenger planes - TransAsia Airways in Taiwan and Air Algerie in Mali - also crashed last week. The aviation disasters come after the mysterious, as yet unsolved March disappearance of another Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370. In his Eid message telecast late Sunday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed his ‘extreme sadness, most profound sympathy and deepest condolences’ to MH17 and MH370 victims’ families, who struggle with their loss.
Diyana Yazeera, daughter of MH17 chief stewardess Dora Shahila Kassim, posted on Twitter late Sunday that Eid, referring to it in the Malay language as Raya, would not be the same. ‘Mummy, this year’s raya and the upcoming ones, well will not be raya. Im not gonna celebrate it without you,’ she posted. ‘Stop asking me to be strong. Its so hard to do.’
In neighbouring Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, instead of celebrating, the family of MH17 passenger Ninik Yuriani were preparing to fly to Amsterdam, where victims’ remains have been brought for identification. ‘What was supposed to be a happy feast turned to deep sadness,’ her sister Enny Nuraheni, 54, told AFP. ‘We can plan all we want, but everything is in God’s hands.’ Yuriani, 57, who lived in Amsterdam, had planned to fly to Jakarta and then to her small village in central Java to celebrate Eid with her family.
In Pakistan’s northwestern town of Bannu, where most of those driven from their homes by a military operation against Taliban militants have fled, 3,000 people offered Eid prayers at a park. Cricketer-turned-opposition leader Imran Khan visited the town to distribute sweets, saying on Twitter that he was ‘determined’ to be with those driven from their homes. Saeed Ayub Khan, a spare-parts shop owner, said the families used to prepare for Eid for months, buying new clothes, and gifts for children. ‘Unfortunately, we are celebrating Eid at a time when all of us are homeless so it’s not like the traditional celebrations,’ the 37-year-old said. Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in support of war-torn Gaza on Monday as they gathered to pray at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Police put the number of worshippers at 45,000 people, with an AFP correspondent saying many were dressed in black t-shirts emblazoned with slogans reading ‘Gaza, supporting you is our Eid’ and ‘We are all Gaza.’ Others wore T-shirts proclaiming support for Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which has been locked in a 21-day confrontation with Israeli troops in Gaza. The conflict has so far claimed 1,036 lives in Gaza and 46 in Israel. Among the crowds was a young child on someone’s shoulders holding up a plastic gun. ‘Kidnap more soldiers!’ they chanted. ‘Our blood for Gaza.’ Police distanced themselves from the crowd which soon dispersed without incident, the correspondent said. The ongoing violence in Gaza has escalated tensions across the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, with angry protestors clashing nightly with Israeli police and troops, AFP correspondents said. Figures published by the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) at the weekend showed 11 Palestinians have been killed and around 600 injured in clashes since July 23.
Ten of them, including a teenager, were shot dead by Israeli troops, while another was killed by an Israel settler, it said.
Overnight, stone-throwing protesters faced off with troops until dawn in Yatta in the southern West Bank, with three injured by live fire and another three arrested, Palestinian security sources said. Following further clashes overnight in east Jerusalem, police spokeswoman Luba Samir said another 22 people were arrested, raising to 375 the overall number of people detained in the eastern sector of the city since July 2. So far, 135 people have been indicted for disturbing the peace in weeks of angry protests which erupted followed the July 2 kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager by a group of Jewish extremists in revenge for the abduction and murder in June of three Israeli teens. The angry protests also spread across Arab towns in Israel, with police making ‘close to a thousand arrests’, Samri said.