Life is truly lived only when we discover other faiths, festivals, languages and cultures.

Avijeet Das, author

Here’s wishing all Muslim friends ‘Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri’ today. How time flies! Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is over and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a religious holiday which marks the end of Ramadan, is here.

Hari Raya is celebrated by Muslims not only in Malaysia but throughout the world. In normal times, it is a day of prayers and merry making.

Muslims will wake up early to go to the mosques to thank Allah for his blessings in their lives. The younger ones will seek forgiveness from their elders who will give them money in packets. While the Chinese have their ‘angpows’ (red envelopes containing cash) during Chinese New Year, the Muslims have their ‘duit Raya’ (green packets containing cash) during Hari Raya.

Dressed in their new Raya clothes, Muslims will then visit their relatives, family members and friends to enjoy traditional Malay delicacies like lemang (glutinous rice), rendang, curry and various types of cakes.

This year, Hari Raya is different for Muslims in Malaysia including Sarawak because of Covid-19.

There are no visits to graves of family members, no balik kampung (returning to home town) practice, no jams at airports, bus stations or ferry points.

There is a ban on inter-district travels and travel in and out of the state is strictly controlled to contain the spread of Covid-19. 

Like Malaya, Sarawak is observing the conditional movement control order (CMCO) from May 4 until June 9.  The whole country was under the movement control order (MCO) since March 18.

Even though many businesses have been allowed to operate under the CMCO, there are many standard operating procedures (SOPs) to observe.

In the past, before the Covid-19 pandemic, on the first day of Hari Raya, the roads to Malay kampungs would have been congested because many Malaysians took the opportunity to go Hari Raya visiting.

This year, Sarawakians are not allowed to go on house-to-house Raya visits to curb the spread of Covid-19. This is a directive from the State Disaster Management Committee.

Today, on the first day of Raya, family members can be together but there must not be more than 20 people at a time.

Tahlil prayers and any feasts are also not allowed. The shaking of hands and touching are also not allowed.

To ensure that households do not exceed a maximum of 20 people at a time as well as to nab those who travel interstate without permits, the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) and the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) will be conducting patrols in residential areas throughout the nation.

“If a house is spotted with a lot of vehicles parked outside, the police will knock on your doors,” warned Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, adding that PDRM and ATM had agreed to be on duty on the first day of Hari Raya and the following days.

In their Hari Raya messages released today, many leaders in Sarawak have also warned the public to comply with government directives on Hari Raya for their safety and that of their family members.

Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng, for instance, said it was imperative for the celebrants to comply strictly with the government’s standard operating procedures (SOPs).  

“Always wear a face mask in public places or when you visit someone. Get your temperature checked if you are patronising the grocery shop or supermarket or even office buildings.

“Use a hand sanitiser when needed and remember to wash your hands. Also, practise one to two-metre social distancing between you and others. This is the new norm that we have to get used to it,” he said in his Hari Raya and Gawai video message posted on the MBKS’ Facebook page.  

Miri Mayor Adam Yii advised Mirians to be extra cautious during this Hari Raya.

In his Raya message, he said the state is still battling Covid-19.  He admitted it would be a difficult Raya. “We are still worried about a second wave of infections,” he added.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in his Hari Raya message, also advised the people to remain vigilant against Covid-19.

“Adhere to the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the celebration and do not be too overzealous in celebrating.

“We do not want to have a new Covid-19 cluster created following irresponsible acts during these celebrations of Raya and Gawai Dayak.

“We need to take care of our health and protect our old folk from being infected by Covid-19,” he added.

Yes, my friends, it is indeed a difficult Raya. Anyway, it is better to be safe than sorry. Let us be vigilant, comply with the SOPs for Hari Raya during the CMCO.  

Perhaps, we can go Hari Raya visiting next year when things return to normal. Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, maaf Zahir dan Batin.