Muslims celebrate major holiday amid curfews, virus fears

CORRECTS TO CLARIFY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN MUSLIM NATIONS NOT GAZA - Muslims wearing face masks attend the Eid al-Fitr prayers outside a mosque in Gaza City, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of Muslims worldwide are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan -- a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
CORRECTS TO CLARIFY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN MUSLIM NATIONS NOT GAZA - Muslims wearing face masks attend the Eid al-Fitr prayers outside a mosque in Gaza City, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of Muslims worldwide are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan -- a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JAKARTA – Muslims around the world on Sunday began celebrating Eid al-Fitr, a normally festive holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with millions under strict stay-at-home orders and many fearing renewed coronavirus outbreaks.

The three-day holiday is usually a time of travel, family get-togethers and lavish daytime feasts after weeks of dawn-to-dusk fasting. But this year many of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims will have to pray at home and make due with video calls.

Some countries, including Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, have imposed round-the-clock holiday curfews. But even where many restrictions have been lifted, celebrations will be subdued because of fears of the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Saudi Arabia, home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, is under a complete lockdown, with residents only permitted to leave their homes to purchase food and medicine.

In Jerusalem, Israeli police said they broke up an “illegal demonstration” and arrested two people outside the Al-Aqsa mosque, which Muslim authorities have closed for prayers since mid-March and will not reopen until after the holiday. Worshippers who tried to enter the compound scuffled with the police.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and would ordinarily welcome tens of thousands of worshippers during the Eid. The hilltop compound is also the holiest site for Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount. The site has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran, which is battling the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East, allowed communal prayers at some mosques but cancelled the annual mass Eid prayers in Tehran led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran has reported over 130,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths.

The virus causes mild to moderate flu-like symptoms in most patients, who recover within two to three weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying health conditions.