P.E.I. Muslim community marks Eid al-Fitr with drive-thru barbecue

Members of the Island’s Muslim Community say this year’s observances of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr have been unlike any other.

'I'm always amazed at the type of solidarity that develops among people in difficult times'

The Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island hosted a drive-thru barbecue to mark Eid, instead of the regular community gathering, due to COVID-19. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

Members of the Island's Muslim Community say this year's observances of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr have been unlike any other.

But, in the time of COVID-19, the traditions and rituals endured, in some cases observed in new ways.

"It certainly will be memorable," said Zain Esseghaier, spokesperson for the Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island. 

"We had no choice but to spend more time with the family, so I guess there is a silver lining to all this." 

The mosque has been closed since March, due to restrictions around social gatherings and rules about physical distancing. So to support the community from a distance, and support worship at home, the daily call to sunset prayer was streamed live on Facebook.

"It's kind of nice, you know, to have that communion with everybody else at the same time, although we're all in separate spaces," said Esseghaier. 

A volunteer with the Muslim Society of P.E.I. hands out hamburgers to fellow members of the community, in celebration of Eid, since large public gatherings still aren't allowed due to COVID-19. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Eid, a holiday that marks the end of 30 days of fasting during Ramadan, was marked with a drive-thru barbecue instead of a large gathering to pray, celebrate and share food. 

"It's really an opportunity for people to see each other, at least from a distance," said Esseghaier.

He estimates that the Muslim community on Prince Edward Island totals almost 1,000 people, many living in the Charlottetown area. 

Volunteers wore masks and maintained physical distancing while preparing and distributing food to members of the Muslim community. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

He said during a time that's usually focused on togetherness, it's not easy to be apart. But the global health pandemic has also made this Ramadan special in terms of supporting more time to reflect and to connect with family. 

"It could be seen as a humbling experience, and also a reminder that there are a lot of things that are more important than what our worldly life is all about," said Esseghaier.

One example, he said, is the way declining pollution levels during the pandemic have made clear the way daily routines impact the environment. 

"So there might be some lessons that could be also learned from a pandemic. And I hope that we will heed those lessons as well."

He said it's also been an opportunity to witness the strength and resilience of individuals and communities. 

"I'm always amazed at the type of solidarity that develops among people in difficult times," said Esseghaier. 

"And I think in Canada we have shown very clearly that when things get tough, people come together and support and help each other, which is which is another silver lining as well."

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