The Jakarta Post
Two of Indonesia's largest mass Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, have advised people against participating in the annual Idul Fitri mudik (exodus) in May, arguing it would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.
Muhammadiyah chairman Haedar Nashir said that although mudik was an otherwise positive tradition under normal circumstances, returning to one’s home region was simply not advisable during the pandemic.
“Religious activities have been limited in accordance with the established religious laws. So, of course, mudik, as a social activity, should also be stopped,” Haedar said in a statement on Sunday.
He went on to urge Muslims to refrain from carrying out activities that might put themselves and others, including their loved ones, in danger during these challenging times.
“Now is the time for us to [postpone] all kinds of activities including mudik. It may be postponed until after the disaster has abated,” Haedar said.
The organization hoped the government would also issue a more stringent restriction to clear up any confusion among the public as to whether mudik was advisable during the pandemic, he said.
“We wouldn’t want it to be a case where mass organizations and religious figures are instructed to advise the public against going on mudik, whereas the government refuses to [impose any restrictions],” Haedar added.
Nahdlatul Ulama chairman Robikin Emhas, who also is also an expert staff member to Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, has also urged Muslims to refrain from participating in mudik this year.
“The current state of emergency requires careful consideration. Therefore, let’s break the chain of COVID-19 infection by not participating in mudik during this Idul Fitri holiday,” Robikin said on March 28.
He called on Muslims to remain in touch with their relatives through alternative channels of communication instead, such as video calls.
“We should still keep in touch [with our family members] on Idul Fitri. We can do so online, by making video calls from our own homes,” Robikin said.
Scientists have predicted that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country could rise to over 70,000 during the Idul Fitri break if holidaymakers are still allowed to travel across the country.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo previously said the government would not ban people from leaving Jakarta, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, for Idul Fitri, instead asking community heads in the other regions to enforce quarantines and cater to the needs of the vacationers soon after their arrival.
It is unclear how many people are expected to participate in the annual mudik this year. In 2019, as many as 19.5 million people across Indonesia returned to their hometowns during the exodus.
Indonesia had recorded a total of 2,491 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 209 deaths as of Monday afternoon.