Eid al-Fitr in the US state of Michigan this year is going to be very different, said Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, a physician and chairman of the Michigan Muslim Community Council.
There will be no mass prayers in the mosques, no communal breakfasts, no carnival and no evening parties. Even family gatherings will be limited.
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“Usually we have a huge party at my house with 400 to 500 people,” Al-Hadidi told Al Jazeera.
“I’m not gonna be doing that this year,” Al-Hadidi said. “I’m going to be with my immediate family, and we’re staying at home.”
But the curbs on mass social gatherings put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, expected to last through at least May 28, have not dampened the holiday spirit. And residents of southeast Michigan, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States, say they have found innovative ways to welcome the three-day holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, while adhering to social-distancing measures.
“We are determined to celebrate and be happy despite all the circumstances, we will adapt,” Al-Hadidi added.
Thousands are expected to tune in on Sunday morning for a live Eid sermon that will be aired on local television and streamed on social media. Later in the day, cars will be able to line up outside several mosques to enjoy live music and to receive gift bags for children, in this year’s first-ever drive-thru Eid event.
Thousands attending the Ramadan Suhoor Festival in Dearborn Heights, Michigan last year [File: Carlos Osorio/AP Photo]
Like most Muslims around the world, those of southeast Michigan, a community of over 250,000, traditionally celebrate Eid by visiting friends and relatives in their homes or attending large gatherings where people eat and socialise together.
“Normally we go to the mosque for prayer and breakfast, and at night we go out for dinner,” Lama Samman Nasry told Al Jazeera, “we spend most of the day out of the house.”
Samman Nasry – a resident of the Detroit suburb Franklin who works as a manager at an urgent care clinic and is the mother of four children – said she will be one of dozens who will be volunteering to hand out presents and food, hoping to help spread some joy.
“It’s going to be a quieter celebration,” she said. “It will be a different kind of celebration, definitely.”
Michigan has been one of the hardest-hit states during the coronavirus pandemic, with over 53,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 5,000 deaths – the fourth-highest death toll in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
The state also imposed one of the strictest stay-at-home orders, which prompted small groups of protesters, some armed, to demonstrate at the state capitol.
On Thursday, Michigan’s governor Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced steps to reopen the state’s economy and presented timelines for the resumption of some businesses and allowing some social gatherings.
“We’ve taken significant steps forward to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly over the past few weeks. Now we are going to take some time to ensure that these new measures are working,” Whitmer said during Thursday’s news briefing.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump said that he has deemed houses of worship as “essential” and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus.
“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united,” he said at a news conference at the White House.
“The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque,” he said.
Trump said that if governors do not abide by his request, he will “override” them. It remains unclear what authority he has to do so, and how governors – including Michigan’s – will respond.
Meanwhile, Firas Bazerbashi, a physician, says most residents in Michigan are fully aware of the health risks and will forego the customary community celebrations. He added that after weeks of quarantine, people have learned to replace family visits with phone calls and Zoom sessions, despite a renewed need to be physically close to family.
“It will be remarkably different,” Bazerbashi told Al Jazeera. “It’s really hard to be isolated from family and friends and being disconnected from the community.”
“We are mentally prepared to have a COVID Eid, but it is still very challenging,” he said.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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