Joy melds with anxiety as Muslims end Ramadan
Crowds swarm streets, mosques
CAIRO — Far from the din and controversy roiling interfaith relations in the West, Muslims worldwide thronged mosques, cafes, and parks in a solemn and joyful end to the fasting month of Ramadan.
Authorities increased security in some countries because of fears that violence could intrude on celebrations, but for most Muslims it was a day of peace, family, and, most important, food.
Friends and relatives feasted on spicy lamb, kebabs, and saffron rice, while smokers puffed on cigarettes in daylight as the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival began Friday across the Muslim world. During Ramadan, the faithful are supposed to abstain from food, drink, smoking, and sex in a dawn-to-dusk period meant to test the faith and discipline of Muslims.
“It’s nice to be eating, drinking, and smoking during the daytime,’’ said Jordanian banker Mutaz Kurdi, 37, as he walked his two children in an Amman park. “Fasting was difficult this year because of the summer heat.’’
The mood was glum in Pakistan as millions of flood victims did their best to celebrate in donated tents and makeshift shelters yesterday as the country’s leaders — criticized for an inadequate response to the disaster — pledged more aid.
Charities sent bags of gifts such as shiny plastic wrist bangles and candies to children displaced by the floods, which have affected 18 million people. The water has receded in many places, but remains head-high in others. “We don’t have the happiness of Eid. What is the happiness?’’ said Amana Bibi, 25. “We don’t have homes.’’
Business was brisk for ice cream vendors in Baghdad, where children decked out in holiday finery rode Ferris wheels at amusement parks and raced horse-drawn carts on traffic-free streets.
Soldiers guarded playgrounds and public parks, and additional military and police checkpoints were erected across the Iraqi capital — a reminder the country still faces near-daily bombings and shootings despite a dramatic drop in attacks.
Ali Issa, a 41-year-old father of four from the Shi’ite slum of Sadr City, said Iraqis have little to look forward to this holiday season, with prices rising and political bickering continuing.
“The security situation is deteriorating and so is the economy,’’ Issa said. “This year, I only bought new dresses for my two girls while I asked the two boys to use their old clothes because I cannot afford new clothes for everybody.’’
In Yemen, authorities warned people to pray in mosques and deployed heavy security after posters signed by Al Qaeda threatened attacks.
Thousands of children, most dressed in new holiday clothing, thronged the streets of Gaza City, which were decorated with banners wishing a “Happy Eid.’’ In the West Bank, men with children in tow paid respects to female relatives — mothers, sisters, and aunts — bearing gifts of sweets as well as cash.