To fast or not to fast: Eid confusion in Indonesia

Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:46am EDT
 
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JAKARTA (Reuters) - 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 Eid 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.

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 Eid 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 Eid al-Fitr.

But members of Muhammadiyah, the country's second biggest Islamic group, are still celebrating Eid 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.

(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Elaine Lies)

 
<p>Indonesian Muslims attend prayers marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan on a street in Jakarta August 30, 2011. REUTERS/Supri</p>