To fast or not to fast: Id confusion in Indonesia

Hungry Muslims dismayed after government in Jakarta postpones the end of Ramadan by a day, claiming the moon is not yet in the right position.

By REUTERS
August 30, 2011 12:29
1 minute read.
Muslim women at Ramadan prayer in Indonesia

ramadan indonesia 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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JAKARTA - Indonesia's government has declared that the moon is not in the right position for the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan to end as expected on Tuesday, causing hungry disappointment in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesians, 90 percent of whom are Muslim, celebrate the end of Ramadan or Id al-Fitr festival with a feast and new clothes, but they have been forced to put their delicacies back in the cupboard for one more day.

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Housewife Nur Arifah did not expect the announcement, which came late on Monday, and got up early that day to cook plenty of stewed beef for her family in Jakarta.

"My nephews and nieces have all gathered in my father's house to celebrate with new clothes, yet it's the wrong day.

"The market has already shut, so for me to be able to cook a new dish...we might as well eat instant noodles for Id al-Fitr," she said.

Many other Muslims who were set to start eating during the day returned to fasting between sunrise and sunset on Tuesday, while shopping malls pushed their closing holiday to Wednesday.

The position of the moon determines the start and end of Ramadan, and astronomers and Muslim bodies told the Indonesian government the moon was too low to herald Id al-Fitr.

But members of Muhammadiyah, the country's second biggest Islamic group, are still celebrating Id on Tuesday since some astronomers say it falls on that day. Other nations, such as Saudi Arabia, are celebrating as well.

Last year the country's highest Islamic authority admitted it had got the direction of Mecca wrong, causing havoc since it meant mosques were all facing in the wrong direction for devotees to pray facing Saudi's holy Islamic city.

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