KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — No buka puasa (breaking of fast) with friends and relatives, no balik kampung (going back to your hometown) and finally no open houses. Can we even call this Hari Raya?
Well, Muslims in Malaysia who have already undergone 67 days of sheltering in place because of the Covid-19 lockdown — although most were allowed to go back to work from May 4, the mantra remains “stay home, stay safe” — are celebrating while following the government-prescribed standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Reza Arif will not be welcoming any visitors this Raya as he has two young children; son Ryan is three while daughter Arya is a year and a half.
Young children and those above 60 years old are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus so Reza is not taking any chances.
Usually, Reza goes to Sungai Buloh to meet his brothers before they all head to Seremban. Then it is off to Melaka to his in-laws’ place before returning home all in a week's time.
But that is not happening this year.
“Well, it’s definitely a cheaper Raya,” Reza told Malay Mail. “Plus the vibe’s different this year with the virus still out there and the government working very hard to keep us all safe with all the SOPs in place.
“Despite all that, I believe this is a time for all of us to show solidarity with one another and embrace our lives and the people in it.
“Be grateful that we are alive and have our loved ones with us. That will make your Raya an awesome one,” he added.
Putrajaya restricted travel across state lines in order to curb the spread of the disease. In the last few days before Raya, thousands tried to break the conditional movement control order (CMCO) and drive back to their kampungs but were turned back by the police.
Tennis coach Ahmad Hazeeq Ahmad Hisham, 35, is celebrating Raya at his wife’s hometown in Perlis this year.
Perlis is a green zone — no active Covid-19 cases — but its status might change if outsiders, some of whom may be infected, come back and spread the virus.
“My wife and I take turns visiting our parents and we should be in Kuala Lumpur this year where the festivities would have been big.
“We’d stay at my mom's place for three days then come home. My son Aryan would have loved it,” said Hazeeq when contacted.
“However, we are also lucky that Perlis is a green zone so we can go to our grandmother's house but only family is allowed.
“We are still scared of letting visitors in because we don’t know where they have been and there is a real possibility of getting infected and I don’t want to risk that.”
Ayez Shaukat Fonseca, a professional wrestler, said they usually celebrate Raya at his wife’s hometown in Kota Tinggi, Johor. They’d spend the week there with her family as she rarely gets to see them.
Ayez has been keeping indoors since the start of the outbreak, and with aged parents at home, he is choosing to keep the celebrations to “family only.”
“We’re disinfecting, cleaning ourselves and keeping good hygiene levels before meeting my parents. It’s not something to take lightly,” he said.
“However, I don’t think it needs to be a sombre celebration. Raya is a cultural thing and being close to your loved ones is important. As the lockdown is still on, we must all play our parts and put our wishes aside for the welfare of everyone.”
The lockdown for Ayez, however, has a silver lining. On Friday, he was scouted by wrestling legend Robert Booker Tio Huffman, better known by his ring name Booker T, and signed a one year contract to wrestle in the Flagship pro wrestling company in Houston, Texas owned by Booker T.
“I believe I’m the first Malaysian and South-east Asian to make it to a major promotion in the United States,” Ayez said.
“Booker-T and I watched one of my matches yesterday and after that he offered me a contract on the spot. He said he wants me to be discovered and that I have the qualities of a superstar.
“I’m supposed to go there as soon as possible but I need to settle my work visa and check regulations for me flying out and getting into America. I'm thinking around August or September this could be a possibility,” he added.
The government may have restricted visitors to 20 people per house for Hari Raya but the reality seems to be that no one has been getting any invitations to visit.
According to school teacher Mohd Sobri Mohd Nor, people in kampungs will usually swing by for a visit during the festive occasion, but this year might see that change.
“Who dares to have an open house?” Sobri asked.
“Times like these, even if you're in the clear, the virus spreads so easily that no one will invite you to their homes.
“So whatever number or limit you want to impose is irrelevant because you’re going nowhere but staying at home this Raya.”
Usually Sobri, his son Najmi and wife Nor Aslin Jaafar will go to Perak and visit the family for two to three days.
This time when asked what they will do, he said: “Stay at home.”