In the face of terror, Muslims welcome Eid

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Muslims around the world welcomed Eid al-Fitr this week, the celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

But, after attacks claimed or inspired by ISIS in Baghdad, Dhaka, Istanbul, Medina and other cities, the festive holiday has taken on a muted tone for some.

We spoke to three people who are observing Eid in some of those places affected by terror.

“Everyone feels empty”

It was supposed to be a time of merrymaking for Muslims worldwide after a month of fasting but, instead, the buzzy streets of Dhaka have been still.

Since the July 1 café attack that left 23 people dead, Naina Hussain, an Emory University student visiting family in Bangladesh, said the mood in the city has shifted from celebratory to cautious.

“We celebrate Eid every year, and there is always something to look forward to, even simple things in life, such as food. However, this time, there is something missing – and no one can explain,” she told CNN. “Everyone feels empty on the inside.”

The deadliest hostage standoff in Bangladesh’s history was especially personal for the 21-year-old because two of the slain hostages went to her college.

Hussain still has vivid memories seeing Faraaz Hossain walking around Emory’s business school campus.

The Dhaka café attackers gave Hossain a chance to leave with the other women who were wearing hijabs.

He refused, remaining with his female friends and other hostages – a decision that ultimately cost him his life, according to witnesses.

“Everyone was mourning and is still mourning,” Hussain said.

Eid is typically a joyous occasion for the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

Traditionally, families purchase new clothes, cook plenty of food and gather together with loved ones, but this year doesn’t feel the same.

There’s a heightened sense of fear, Hussain said.

“The shopping malls aren’t crowded, and no one is eager to go out and celebrate. The attacks totally changed the vibe of the holiday here and rightfully so. No one is as excited about Eid this time,” she said. “All of us have faced loss in this country.”

She just hopes this Eid will bring some sense of peace.

“I am so proud”

Khadija Farah was one of the millions to take part in umrah, a pilgrimage akin to the Hajj, in the holy city of Mecca.

The “spiritually fulfilling” experience involves circling around the sacred structure known as the Kaaba.

The 26-year-old photographer and social worker based in Nairobi, Kenya spent the last two weeks in Saudi Arabia observing Ramadan.

When the attack happened in Medina – a suicide bomber killed four security staff in a parking lot outside the Prophet’s Mosque – she was traveling from Mecca to Jeddah, unaware of what had happened.

A sense of disbelief and then anger swept over her when she heard the news.

Medina holds a special place in Farah’s heart.

It is the final resting place for the Prophet Mohammed and is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam.

“It is where I fell in love with Islam after a long period of darkness,” she told CNN. “I just can’t believe someone who claims to be a Muslim would want to cause harm to people in a place known for bringing light and hope to Muslims. It seems like there are truly no more red lines to cross.”

Last year, Farah and her family spent Eid in Mecca and Jeddah.

They had planned to do the same this year, but they decided to leave early and celebrate the holiday in Kenya.

They just wanted to be closer to home.

“Although such attacks are meant to divide and demoralize, I think targeting Medina has galvanized and united the Muslim populations like no other,” she said. “Medina is sacred to every Muslim sect, and we all feel extremely protective of it. Although it is a tragic and horrifying thing, I am so proud of how we have responded with love and unity.”

Her family is spending three days to celebrate the holiday, but the terror visited upon Medina and other cities with predominately Muslim populations is not far from her mind.

The violence has made this year’s Eid bittersweet, she said.

“(We’re) happy that we get to eat and drink during the day, but we’re sad because our level of spirituality will inevitably go down. There’s the idea that we are our best selves during Ramadan,” she said. “It’s one of the many reasons these recent attacks have been especially hard to bear.”

“I am still afraid”

Children were smiling as many donned new clothes for Eid prayers at a local mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wira Hardiprakoso said.

This was the time to visit as many family members as possible, sort of like a tour of families, he told CNN.

But, in the back of his mind, he was also a bit weary since it was only a few days after a suicide bomber tried to enter police headquarters in the central Javanese city of Solo and wounded a police officer, according to authorities.

“The attack did shock me and made me terribly concerned and sad,” the father of two said. “I am still afraid that more attacks can take place again.”

There’s been heightened security throughout some parts of Jakarta, with more officers on the streets, he added.

“I think we are in a state of alert,” he said.

Despite the uptick in terror attacks in various Muslims countries, Hardiprakoso said he and his family are trying to enjoy these special few days the best way they can, by surrounding themselves with loved ones.

“Indonesians keep celebrating Eid as usual, without any fear and with the same happiness and spirit,” he said.

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