Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: A disagreement over the Eid feast

October 6, 2008 |  6:42 am

Crescent_moon Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq rarely agree on the exact sighting of the crescent moon that marks the beginning of Eid.

But this year even Shiites couldn’t agree among themselves on the start of the three-day holy feast that ends the fasting month of Ramadan.

In many Shiite families, some broke their fasts, others did not, making for strained and confused households.

For years, the Eid was set by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and other religious leaders who preside over the shrine at Najaf.

But these days, the Shiites who follow the guidance of other religious leaders celebrated the feast a day earlier than Sistani. They marked it on Wednesday, and Sistani followers on Thursday.

Shiites have become quite stubborn about the question. At least one man chased his wife through the house, trying to make her break her fast. She refused for an hour, then relented. She was angry at him for the rest of the day.

Abu Ali, a Sistani follower, said: "I fasted on Wednesday, but the issue ignited a debate inside my family on who was right or wrong. There was a big quarrel. I ended the debate in my family, but some of them started yelling at each other."

It is increasingly a sensitive topic, and one man told me that the bickering “has caused me to lose my anticipation and taste for the Eid.”

When I was writing this blog, a group of men told me: “If you write about this, we will show this story to bad guys.”

It is strange to me that writing about a holy day can get one into trouble.

— Usama Redha in Baghdad

Photo credit: Associated Press

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