No ‘full scale’ celebrations: Muslims in Singapore adjust Hari Raya plans amid COVID-19 curbs

No ‘full scale’ celebrations: Muslims in Singapore adjust Hari Raya plans amid COVID-19 curbs

Hari Raya gatherings 2021 - Ahmad
Ahmad Musta'ain Khamis (in blue) with his family. (Photo: Ahmad Musta'ain Khamis)

SINGAPORE: The coming Hari Raya will be Namira Nasir’s last before she gets married, and the 29-year-old was looking forward to gathering with friends and family after a long, tiring year.  

But the tightened COVID-19 measures announced on Tuesday (May 4) “added to the melancholy” of moving out of her family home, she said.

From May 8 to 30, social gatherings will be capped at five people in a group, down from eight. Households will similarly be able to receive only up to five distinct visitors per day. 

In addition, the Health Ministry's advice is for people to keep to a maximum of two social gatherings daily.

READ: Cap of 5 people for social gatherings, household visits to return as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures

While the measures are not a huge change for her family, she said, since they have been "cautious" about meeting elderly relatives during the pandemic, they had been optimistic about the improvement in the situation a few weeks ago before COVID-19 cases rose again.

"The mood dampener was exacerbated by the contrast in optimism we had up until a few weeks ago. The situation now makes us feel a bit demotivated, but we’re already going into our last week of Ramadan so we’re just trying to make it to the end as best as we can," she told CNA.

"I think the bigger impact (of the revised measures) will come from the increasingly tense situation with the rising number of cases. That would, and should, make people more careful about their gatherings.”

READ: Singapore returns to tighter COVID-19 measures: What's allowed under the new rules?

This is the second Hari Raya that Muslims will be celebrating under the cloud of the pandemic. 

Last year, Ramadan and Hari Raya fell during the COVID-19 "circuit breaker" when social gatherings at homes and public spaces were not allowed.

Even before the stricter measures were announced on Tuesday, Afiq Anwar said his family “didn’t have high hopes of celebrating Raya to its full scale this year". 

"Even so, everyone was secretly a little frustrated at the five-person limit for gatherings," the 26-year-old added.

“Reducing the number to five essentially prohibits visiting of any kind on my mum's side of the family."

Hari Raya gatherings 2021 - Afiq Anwar
Afiq Anwar (top right) and family at a wedding before the pandemic. (Photo: Afiq Anwar)

Pre-pandemic, his family used to find a designated day for Iftar to break fast at one house. 

Large family gatherings on Hari Raya were also common, said Afiq, such as travelling in a convoy to relatives’ houses or gathering at his paternal grandmother’s house to feast for the entire day.  

ADAPTING TO CHANGE

With Singapore's vaccination programme under way, Ahmad Musta'ain Khamis said his family will think about whether those who have not been fully vaccinated, like Ahmad himself, would stay home to protect their elderly relatives.

His family had been preparing to receive guests this year.

“Last year, my mum didn’t prepare much kueh," said the 34-year-old. 

"This year, we went to the kueh bazaar, planned a roster for visitors, and I even got myself an infrared thermometer to scan people’s forehead at the door."

READ: Possibility of circuit breaker ‘not ruled out’ as COVID-19 task force announces tighter measures

But Ahmad said he understands that tradition should take a backseat for now.

“Of course there’s a strong sentimentality to hold on to practices. But culture is continually changing – and what changes will depend on things like safety, preference and laws,” he added.

Hari Raya gatherings 2021 - Ahmad
Ahmad Musta'ain Khamis (in grey) with his family. (Photo: Ahmad Musta'ain Khamis)

Safety was also top of the mind for 47-year-old Aidli Mosbit, who is getting married and having a wedding reception at Fullerton Bay Hotel on May 22.

It is intended to be a “three-in-one” event celebrating the marriage, Hari Raya and her future husband’s birthday.

With about 100 guests, she said she was concerned about whether there needs to be a medical team on-site for pre-event COVID-19 testing and whether vaccinated guests will be exempted from testing. 

Under the new rules which kick in on May 8, pre-event testing will be required for all attendees if the wedding reception involves more than 50 people. This limit is currently set at 100.

Hari Raya gatherings 2021 - Aidli Mosbit
Aidli Mosbit and her fiancé, whom she will marry on May 22. (Photo: Aidli Mosbit)

“As an educator, I come from a place where safety comes first. We don’t want to get ourselves into trouble. I’m not angry, it’s just anxiety because there are things we need to put in place,” she said.

Unless “anything major” happens to derail her plans, Aidli plans to go ahead with the event. 

“We are still in pandemic mode, so we might not be able to visit all our friends and family. My fiance and I wanted to use our wedding to gather our loved ones,” she said.

Dr Norhisham Main, president of the Muslim Healthcare Professional Association, said Muslims can look at the new restrictions as "a minor setback". 

It is "not as bad as last year" during the circuit breaker since home visits are allowed now. 

"As these are the last few days of Ramadan, Muslims can also look at this from the perspective of giving and sacrifice," said Dr Norhisham, who was also a member of the former Malay Muslim COVID-19 Workgroup. 

"We will do our part to overcome the new clusters, and hopefully with these new measures, we're able to curtail the rise in infections."

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Source: CNA/gy(gs)

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