BEIRUT (AsiaNews) – Several humanitarian organizations, as well as United Nations agencies monitoring the growing phenomenon of food shortages in poor countries due to the war in Ukraine, report that millions of Indonesians are returning to their homes and villages of origin, after two years of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In other countries, from the Middle East to Malaysia, however, it has gone into chiaroscuro due to the many difficulties linked to the economic crisis, on which the war in Ukraine has had an even greater impact. In India, as if that were not enough, episodes of intolerance and attacks by Hindu nationalists against Muslims are increasingly frequent. Nevertheless, what prevails is the desire to celebrate the end of Ramadan and to rediscover the traditional moments of community and sharing for Sunni and Shia Muslims at the time of Eid al-Fitr, the event that marks the end of the holy month of fasting and prayer. . .
Reduced food and fewer gifts. It is no longer Covid that casts more than a shadow over the holidays this year, but war and widespread economic hardship have added to inflation and the disruption of food supplies, primarily wheat and the cereals. In Egypt, many families bought far fewer sweets, clothes and gifts to distribute to their children or to share with relatives, friends and neighbours. Southeast Asia’s most important Muslim place of worship, the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Indonesia, closed its doors just two years ago at the start of the pandemic. And even last year it did not welcome worshipers due to government restrictions. “Words are not enough – he told theapp a devotee named Epi Tanjung, at the conclusion of the prayer – to describe my happiness to be here today, after two years divided by the pandemic”.
Scarce grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine. Several Muslim-majority countries relied on grain stocks from Russia and Ukraine to meet their domestic needs and are now experiencing extremely difficult conditions. In Idleb, a province in northwestern Syria controlled by anti-Assad rebels and jihadists, the situation this year is more difficult than in the past: many families have received only half of the food they need. . There is a lack of rice, lentils, cooking oil in a context already strongly marked by war, Western sanctions and widespread corruption, elements which are more or less obviously reflected in neighboring Lebanon as well.
Difficulties in Gaza, Kabul and Baghdad. In the Gaza Strip, the streets and markets are crowded, but few can afford to shop and buy food and party-related goods. “The situation is difficult – says Um Musab, mother of five children – and only state employees manage to earn what they need to live, but the rest of the population is crushed by poverty and want”. Fears and security concerns unite Afghanistan and Iraq: in Kabul, the Taliban have tightened controls after the attacks of recent days, in a period often characterized by explosions and in an expansion phase of the attacks launched by local cells linked to the so-called Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) who issued an open challenge to Koranic students. Maximum attention also in Baghdad and in several major Iraqi centers, where buyers are scarce and businesses are complaining of sharp drops in turnover.
Denigrating attacks by Hindus against Muslims. Meanwhile, the Muslim minority in India is the target of derogatory attacks from radical Hindu nationalists, who have long taken anti-Islamic positions and fomented the attacks. Islamic preachers have warned worshipers to remain vigilant during Eid as they prepare “to face the worst”. “Nothing is the same – says activist Ovais Sultan Khan – for Muslims in India, including Eid”. However, many Muslims elsewhere in the world have welcomed the resumption of rituals interrupted by the pandemic restrictions. Millions of people in Indonesia have taken to trains, ferries and buses to return to their families and celebrate. In the capital, families flocked to malls to buy clothes, shoes and sweets ahead of the holidays, despite pandemic warnings and rising food prices. In neighboring Malaysia too, there is a strong desire to turn the page, after two years of blockade at the borders.