An Afghan policeman stands guard outside a mosque where a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in Kabul on June 16. Photograph: (Reuters)
Eid is approaching. The last day of the holy month of Ramzan will relieve hundreds of million Muslim believers from a hard fasting month.
This year though, in several countries, shadows of fear and anxiety risk ruining the positivity of Eid.
In Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city, many are afraid of what could happen during Eid when mosques will be crowded. During the week before Eid more citizens will be on the streets and in the markets to buy sweets and new clothes. It is a tradition, on the day of Eid, to wear new clothes after the dawn prayers.
The change is palpable: two weeks ago, the roads of Kabul were much freer than now. Traffic jams are a constant in the city, but since a few days days the amount of people, minibuses, cars, trucks, bicycles around the city seems to have tripled.
People are worried about the possibility of terror attacks during Eid and their fear does not come out of the blue. In less than one month, Kabul - and the entire Afghanistan - has experienced several attacks against so called soft targets, meaning places which are not at all connected with the military or other security forces.
"We do not feel safe. Every time we get out of our homes to go to work or to the market we never know if we are coming back," says Adeeb, a daily wage worker in Kabul.
On the 31st of May a massive explosion right in the city’s downtown, a place where most embassies and international organisations have their premises, killed more than a hundred people and injured more than 600. A few days later, at the attack victims' funerals, suicide bombers killed at least seven people and injured ten. Less than two weeks later, a suicide-attacker commando broke into a Shia mosque in Kabul killing at least four people and injuring ten. In Lashkar Gah, the southern capital of the Helmand region, a suicide vehicle exploded in front of a bank where citizens were withdrawing their salaries, killing at least 34 people and injuring more than 60.
Eid should be a positive moment, a day which unites Muslims all over the world in an intimate feast to be enjoyed with friends and families, eating the most delicious foods and telling stories on how tough it was to keep fasting for a month. On the day of Eid it is forbidden to fast, people welcome guests, offer sweets, shake hands and share hugs.
Hundreds of millions Muslims gather in mosques and big prayer halls all over the world - from the Washington to Jakarta - to perform the typical prayer for this day.
The holy day at the end of Ramzan, Eid al-Fitr, is different from Eid al-Adha, the sacrifice feast, where millions of goats are butchered to honour Ibrahim, who was ready to sacrifice his son as an act of submission. Eid al-Adha will happen later. I recall a French friend, a researcher, telling how shocking it was to listen to the animal's call in Tunisi on the day of Eid. "It sounds like they know they are all going to die," she recalled.
Even of there will be no massive butchering during Eid al-Fitr, in Afghanistan goat meat will be the protagonist of the meal and I am pretty sure that millions of goats would not agree with the description of Eid in this article.
Ramzan 2017 was particularly hard. The ritual follows the lunar calendar and it moves backward approximately by 11 days every year. Since a few years it is happening in summer when days are long and people fast for an average of 14 hours. It is long, very long, especially without drinking a single glimpse of any liquid under the burning sun. It also gets harder because days become longer in summer and the time for Iftaar - the moment when one is allowed to break the fast - delays by a few minutes through the month.
But then Eid will come and the cycle of life will go back to normal.
“I am scared of this Eid. I am afraid to go to the mosque to pray and to go to the market. I am afraid for my children because every time we have bombs and explosions.” says Aziz who works as a driver. This is not how people are meant to experience Eid, the end of the holiest month for Muslim believers.
To draw a parallel, it is like being afraid that a suicide bomber could blow up the mall where you are happily buying presents for your kids a few days before Christmas or fearing that the church where you are praying during Christmas eve could become a target anytime.
Terrorist and nihilist organisations which claim to be the only real Muslims are the reason behind this Eid of anxiety. They claim they are fighting a holy war against a world of infidels, but they do not care killing other Muslims, attacking mosques and ruining the atmosphere of peace which should surround Eid.
What recently happened in Mosul is just a further example of their attitude. The Islamic State, now almost militarily defeated, blew up the al-Nuri Mosque, the place where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the birth of his caliphate. It was built in the 12th Century and it was dear to all the city’s believers.
This is what terror outfits who call themselves ‘Islamic’ do and little does it matter to them if they are often used as proxy armies for a political game which is bigger than them.
"What Muslim group would destroy a holy mosque? No Muslim would do that. This means this terrorists are not Muslims," says an acquaintance in Kabul who requested not to be named. He fears that someone could track him down and "do something bad."
When too many in too many countries think that Islam and Muslims are a synonym for terrorism, they better remember that the majority of terror victims are Muslims themselves. Here is more: Muslims all over the world are afraid of terrorism, exactly like everyone else. Anti-Muslim parties or organisations should remember that millions of Muslims will live this Eid with a lot of anxiety, fearing for their lives and that this is mostly happening in their own countries, from Syria to Afghanistan.
Terrorism frightens everyone, irrespectively of his or her beliefs. Labelling an entire and diversified faith for it is ignorance at best and political interest at worst.