The statement from the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) marked the first time it forbade Muslims from returning to their home villages and towns for the holiday, an annual tradition when millions of people hit the road to celebrate the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“The virus spreads very easily. Doing something like that at a time of a pandemic is haram [forbidden],” Anwar Abbas, secretary general of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), said in the statement which is not enforceable by law.
The council issued its statement a day after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said people could travel to celebrate Eid in their hometowns late next month provided that they self-isolate. Previously, his government had discouraged citizens from going home for Eid because of public health concerns around the viral outbreak.
Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, who serves as MUI chairman, said he had sought a fatwa (a non-binding legal opinion) forbidding Muslims from traveling to their hometowns.
“I will try to push the MUI to issue a fatwa. There are already fatwas on Friday prayers and the handling of the corpses (of people who died of coronavirus),” he said during a video conference with West Java Gov. Ridwan Kamil, who had requested that the council issue a religious edict on the home-coming tradition known as mudik.
“If there’s a fatwa from ulema, people will listen,” Ridwan told Ma’ruf.
This year’s Eid al-Fitr festival is expected to fall on May 24, subject to the sighting of the new moon. Last year, almost 15 million people traveled from the greater Jakarta region to their hometowns and villages across the sprawling archipelago.
On Friday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Indonesia rose to nearly 1,986 after 196 new cases were reported – the biggest one-day jump during the outbreak, the Health Ministry said. In addition, the death toll rose to 181 – 11 more than on Thursday.
Also on Friday, the Reuters reported that nearly 4,400 burials occurred in the capital Jakarta last month alone, a number that was 40 percent higher than any month since at least January 2018. The figure, based on a review by Reuters of cemetery statistics, cited the governor of the Jakarta region as saying this suggested that the actual number of deaths from COVID-19 could be higher than officially reported.
Globally, more than 58,000 people have died and more than 1 million have been infected, according to the latest data compiled by disease experts at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
The State Intelligence Agency, meanwhile, warned that the viral outbreak in Indonesia could peak in June or July with more than 105,000 cases.
This week, Jokowi declared a national health emergency and ordered large-scale social restrictions.
But on Thursday he decided to allow Eid revelers to travel to their hometowns and urged authorities at village level to monitor visitors to ensure that they comply with self-isolation orders.
“I want to encourage participation at the community level … so that revelers who come from greater Jakarta can self-isolate (in their hometowns),” Jokowi said at a cabinet meeting.
The government was considering granting more holidays in the future to compensate for people’s inability to celebrate Eid, he said.
Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, said the decision to allow Eid travel was intended to “keep the economy alive.”
Holiday travelers will be subjected to rapid coronavirus tests to minimize infections, he said, adding that details were being worked out.
Authorities in several provinces, including the capital, Jakarta, have closed schools and entertainment centers while urging businesses to allow employees to work from home.
About 300,000 train tickets had been canceled following the government’s earlier calls to postpone travel ahead of Eid, according to the state-railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI).
A spokesperson for PT Kereta Api Indonesia, Yuskal Setiawan, said passengers had cancelled their tickets from March 23 to March 30, adding the railway would refund tickets cancelled through April 15.
Source: Benar News