Asian Insider

Muslims in South-east Asia mark a more 'selamat' Hari Raya amid Covid-19 fears

Selamat stands for 'congratulations' but also means 'safe' in Malay. Whether it is in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia, heightened Covid-19 fears mean travel restrictions, fewer festivities and more Zoom gatherings, as Asian Insider finds out.

East Java town eyes livelier Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration amid eased Covid-19 curbs

As Hari Raya Aidilfitri approaches next Thursday, Banyuwangi resident Fitri Koreasari is looking forward to cooking up a feast for her family - a spread that will include festive favourites chicken opor and beef rendang.

Unlike last year, when many cities across Indonesia were under lockdown, looser restrictions and fewer infections in Banyuwangi, a laid-back town in East Java province with around 1.8 million inhabitants, mean she can now gather with her loved ones at home instead of meeting via video calls.

"Last year, I couldn't even meet my mother, who lives with my sister just 3km away from my house, as access to our housing complexes was blocked," the 37-year-old mother of three told The Straits Times. "We also couldn't visit our neighbours and greeted them only behind the gates."

She added: "At least this year we can gather with our family members here, although those living outside Banyuwangi cannot make their way home."


Millions of Indonesians find way home in Hari Raya Aidilfitri exodus ahead of Covid-19 ban

Indonesian street food vendor Ahmad Dedi and his family arrived at Jakarta's Pasar Senen train station from the neighbouring city of Bekasi more than six hours before their departure to Kebumen, Central Java, on Tuesday evening.

They had left early to avoid the capital's notorious traffic jams, not wanting to miss the trip home for Hari Raya Aidilfitri after being unable to do so last year because of the pandemic.

While the family used to travel home by motorbike, Mr Ahmad, his wife and their three children, including their nine-month-old baby, decided to take the train this time, just before a ban on the exodus for Hari Raya took effect on Thursday. Major inter-city roads will be closed with the ban.

He told The Straits Times: "We were sad not to unite with our parents and relatives last year. Now, despite the ongoing pandemic, we're trying to gather with our families."


Frustration for Malaysians as Raya celebrations are curtailed for second year

Malaysian Muslims have expressed their frustration over having to experience a second consecutive Hari Raya under partial lockdown conditions.

This is after a fresh spike in coronavirus cases led the government to institute partial lockdowns in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia's most populous state, Selangor.

Six main districts in Selangor were placed under the country's movement control order (MCO) from Thursday, and Kuala Lumpur from Friday, for about two weeks. This stops inter-district travel and dining in at restaurants during Aidilfitri celebrations, which take place next Thursday and Friday.

Last year, Malaysians had to celebrate Aidilfitri under restrictions imposed just months after the pandemic started, but the protocols then were more relaxed than the current ones.


Neelofa and the case of the flying carpets: Perceived different rules for rich and famous stoke Malaysians' ire

Malaysian celebrity entrepreneur Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor documented on her Instagram account her jaunts across state borders last month, exacerbating public anger over Malaysia's seemingly haphazard enforcement of travel bans to curb Covid-19 infections.

Photos and a video clip of her and her husband, televangelist Muhammad Haris Muhammad Ismail, allegedly shopping at a carpet store in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, despite an ongoing partial shutdown enforced in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, were met with widespread derision on the Internet.

"Did you cross borders just to buy a carpet? Other people whose parents passed away couldn't even get clearance," tweeted fashion designer Hatta Dolmat.

With compliance fatigue setting in for most of the population forced to stay home for the last few months, and growing resentment that different rules appear to apply to the rich and famous, the travel ban for "balik kampung" (return to home town) this Hari Raya is yet another bugbear for Malaysians.


Muslims in S'pore stay upbeat ahead of Hari Raya despite Covid-19 restrictions on visitors

On top of buying festive clothing and preparing delicacies like pineapple tarts, ketupat and rendang for Hari Raya next Thursday (May 13), Mr Muhd Amirul Hakim Mohamad Helmy's family is creating a roster for the customary household visits.

The 20-year-old part-time restaurant worker said his relatives will take turns to visit one another, in keeping with Singapore's Covid-19 safety regulations.

"We will have to stagger the visiting windows, which would require more detailed planning in who visits when. Planning the visits would take a longer time," he added.

It is just one of many ways in which Muslims here are adjusting to yet another Hari Raya Aidilfitri amid the pandemic, which some have playfully dubbed "Cov-Eid".


Podcast variety show among highlights as Hari Raya celebrations go online

Typically, Mr Hafeez Kamsani, 27, spends the night before Hari Raya Aidilfitri at the Geylang bazaar to usher in the festive period.

Since there is no bazaar this year due to Covid-19, he plans to welcome the festive period by tuning in to a Hari Raya variety show by Okletsgo, his favourite local podcast trio.

For the second year running, the podcasters will be live-streaming "Wajik dan Dodol", a two-hour Hari Raya variety show, on their Facebook page on the eve of Hari Raya.

Okletsgo's show is just one of the many online events and campaigns that Muslims here can look forward to during this year's Hari Raya, which falls on May 13.

The tight curbs on social gatherings have effectively disallowed most Hari Raya events, but the celebrations will continue online.


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