Millions of Muslims around the world Tuesday began observing the holy period of Ramadan amid a COVID-19 pandemic that's still drawing warnings among health officials.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is observed by Muslims worldwide by fasting during daylight hours and observing an additional night of prayer at mosques during the period.
Ramadan this year runs until May 13. A year ago, Ramadan began just a few weeks after the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
Socially-distanced Ramadan: Worshippers pray in Mecca as Islam's holy month begins https://t.co/9JA25mm5Jl— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) April 13, 2021
Amid thousands of new cases daily in the United States, health experts say it may not be safe to celebrate the Ramadan holiday with friends and family, as normal.
Dr. Hasan Shanawani, president of American Muslim Health Professionals, said only fully vaccinated worshipers should attend mosque prayers.
"If you still feel the vaccine will invalidate your fast, still get the vaccine, and then make up that lost day after Ramadan," Shanawani told CNN.
Health officials also recommend keeping celebrations small when gathering for the first meal of the day (suhoor), first meal after sunset (iftar) and the nightly communal prayers (taraweeh).
"In this pandemic, friends and loved ones cannot yet gather together in celebration and congregation, and far too many families will sit down for iftar (the first meal after sunset) with loved ones missing," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement commemorating Ramadan.
This is #Ramadan in Gaza. A family breaking fast atop and amid rubble.— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) April 12, 2021
Conditions are far worse today, with #COVID and increasing poverty in Gaza. To support families in Gaza during the Holy Month, join @baitulmaal and give at: https://t.co/bk9N51shDN pic.twitter.com/906HvJe3sb
Biden said he was proud to end the "shameful" Muslim travel ban pursued by former President Donald Trump and added that he "will continue to stand up for human rights everywhere."
The president noted that Muslim Americans "continue to be targeted by bullying, bigotry, and hate crimes."
"This prejudice and these attacks are wrong. They are unacceptable. And they must stop," he said.
"No one in America should ever live in fear of expressing his or her faith."
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