The Muslim holy month of Ramadan could not come at a worse time in South and Southeast Asia as governments battle to keep the Covid-19 pandemic at bay, presenting multiple potential dangers for Islam’s hundreds of millions of followers and their countrymen.
Ramadan is, of course, a landmark event in the Muslim calendar celebrating the month when the Prophet Muhammad was handed the Quran by God (Allah). It is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset, then each evening is celebrated with a meal known as iftar to break the fast with friends and family.
This celebration has been marked by mass gatherings over the years. The emphasis on friendship during the festival is particularly strong. Along with the centrality of communal prayer to Islam generally and special holidays in particular, this is where Ramadan may pose some danger.
Add to the mix the poor track record, so far, of some Muslim nations in the region of countering the spread of coronavirus, particularly Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, and there is a recipe for potential disaster. The official death toll in all three places is widely believed to be under-reported by experts.