Outback Muslims say they are ‘blessed’ to celebrate Eid al-Adha festivities during pandemic

Alice Springs MosqueMuslims across Australia haven’t been able to celebrate Eid Al Adha as usual this year, but festivities in Central Australia are in full swing. Eid al-Adha is one of the holy days in the Islamic calendar. Alice Springs’ Afghan Mosque is a safe space for the diverse, but relatively small Muslim community.

For most Muslims across Australia, COVID-19 lockdowns have put an end to large celebrations of Eid al-Adha — the Feast of the Sacrifice — but that is not the case in Alice Springs. In the nation’s red centre, people have been able to freely honour the occasion with family and friends. More than 100 Muslims have been able to visit Alice Springs’ Afghan Mosque to celebrate one of Islam’s holiest events that, this year, runs from July 19 to July 23.

The Mosque’s Imam Hamdullah bin Ataullah explained the impact of the pandemic on Muslims. “A lot of Muslims go to Mecca for Hajj and the people who cannot go there can celebrate in their communities,” the imam said. “Through these occasions, we come together, and we celebrate, and we feel that we are one faith-based community,” he said.

Eid al-Adha, he said, was a time to think of the less fortunate, with traditions of sacrificing goats or lambs commemorating the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God. But many Muslims in Australia cannot do that this year, under stay-at-home orders in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia.

‘Blessed’ to be in Alice Springs

Muslims in Alice Springs

While Muslims across Australia are unable to celebrate Eid al-Adha at the mosque this year, those in Alice Springs are thankful they can.(Image supplied)

Local Muslim woman Labiba Nasir said it was a fortunate time to be living in Alice Springs. “We are so blessed in a small town. We have a mosque to celebrate, eat, and come to for the prayers.
“People are so lonely and they cannot fly back to their home countries for celebration. So it’s good to be at the mosque and support each other during this difficult time,” Ms Nasir said. “To be in Alice Springs, with no lockdown, and other states do have lockdowns,” she said.” [We] bring our kids to the mosque and let them know what our culture and religion is about. We enjoy Eid and the kids really enjoy Eid with the friends they have.”
Muslim woman with daughter

Labiba (right) and her daughter, Hafsa, enjoy coming to the Mosque to connect with their religion and community.(Image supplied)

Safe space for Muslims

Imam Hamdullah bin Ataullah
Imam Hamdullah bin Ataullah says Alice Springs Muslims are ‘lucky’ to celebrate Eid al-Adha at their Mosque.(ABC Alice Springs: Youssef Saudie)

According to a recent report, the Christchurch terror attacks made 79 per cent of Australian Muslims afraid for their community. Imam Hamdullah said the mosque’s door was always open for Muslims to connect with each other. He said some Australian Muslims might still be afraid to visit a mosque after the shootings in New Zealand because they kept remembering the tragedy or their feelings about it.

But, he said, getting together was important.

“There are happy moments to celebrate together, and if they’re not happy moments they endure together, they can be with each other,” the imam said.

‘Multicultural harmony’

Mudassir Iqbal
Mudassir Iqbal says he’s supported by his local Mosque.(ABC Alice Springs: Youssef Saudie)

Local Mudassir Iqbal said that, when he first moved to Alice Springs from Melbourne two years ago, he was welcomed with open arms by the community. The Muslim community of Alice Springs is one of the most diverse in Australia, with people from around the world drawn to the outback. Mr Iqbal said there was an added unity because of the diversity. “[They are] all from different backgrounds: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, so it’s … multicultural harmony,” he said.



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