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CONTROVERSY OVER MOON SIGHTING

Confusion overshadowed Eid-ul-Fitr celebration

Faruque Ahmed
It was a scandalous evening on June 4. The nation was on high preparation to celebrate Eid-U-Fitr in the following morning. But TV stations were not running any Eid programme on the screen, no Eid-ul-Fitr announcement in the air, total silence.
There was no word from the government whether or not moon has been sighted by national moon sighting committee. TV scroll was just showing the committee was busy in marathon meeting at Islamic Foundation to know if moon was sighted anywhere in the country.
Moon was sighted or not sighted –no information while people were passing agonizing time and went for Taraweh prayer in the mosque taking it for granted that another fasting day was laying ahead. Housewives abandoned preparing Eid dishes for the next morning.
True to their fear the state minister for religious affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah appeared in TV screen at 9.00 pm to announce that nowhere moon was sighted in the country and therefore Eid will be celebrated on June 7 instead of 6.
Most people went to sleep. But suddenly the minister emerged on the TV screen again at 11.00 pm to make the surprising announcement that moon has been sighted and Eid will be celebrated the following morning. The situation was quite misleading.
People were at loss and mobile phone started to ring in almost all families to put the alert bell. It was a face loss of the government for failure of the religious affairs ministry to handle the issue properly and was highly embarrassing for the government.
It was talk of the town throughout the country the following day and few more. It caught the nation in total confusion as to how the moon sighting committee failed and then succeeded again. If moon was not sighted at sunset how it can be discovered at midnight.
The state minister reversed the decision within two hours. He said the committee has information that seven persons have sighted moon at Kurigram and 11 more have reportedly seen it at another pace.
Local administration received the witness account in writing at Kurigram and so the crisis is over. Suddenly all TV stations started airing Eid Programmes but it was already almost midnight. House wives again moved in haste to prepare Eid meals.
People have blamed the national moon sighting committee and the religious affairs ministry as a whole for its failure to successfully handle the issue and help the nation celebrate the event with due festivities.
The state minister said some highly paced religious scholars have contacted him, few came to him in person around 10.00 pm to say they have information that moon was sighted at some places. Their opinion supported the claim from Kurigram.
But some other sources said speculations were high in the air that many imams from mosques in the capital and in the suburb had taken a move to perform Eid prayers in the following morning. Their argument was that there was no reason that moon was not born in Bangladesh sky; the government may have failed to pick it up. When footing of Eid preparations was in progress in neighboring countries, Bangladesh can’t wait another day. The government announcement put an end to the crisis.
Most people slammed the state minister and demanded his resignation taking the responsibility and also called for abolition of the moon sighting committee for its lack of capacity to coordinate the moon sighting network nationwide. Never before such scandalous announcement and counter announcement centering moon sighting had taken place in the memorable past.
Skeptics wonder why the moon sighting committee was not able to collect the information in time through its nationwide network which was also at work at Kurigram. If those people have sighted the moon, the information must not have missed the local administration in a short time when fast moving mobile and internet communication system is at work.
This is the outcome of poor governance and a lack of accountability of a government not duly elected, said some critics. In a democratic society the minister should have resigned taking the blame to exonerate the government of the blame. Meanwhile, a high powered committee should have been tasked to probe the matter to restore the shattered confidence of the people. But none of it happened.
What is surprising is that the parliamentary standing committee on Monday last discussed failure of the moon sighting committee at a meeting. But the state minister was absent. He sent the secretary of the ministry to the meeting who said the ministry is preparing to buy high resolution technology for use in sighting the moon.
The question is why the meteorological department is not equipped with such technology when the government has no shortage of fund to run mega projects. Some committee members also demanded the resignation of the state minister. Many believe either he has ignored the committee or taken it so lightly. In fact when people have strong backing in the political establishment they believe they are above accountability.
Taking floor in parliament BNP lawmaker Harunur Rashid on Tuesday slammed the government failure and also demanded resignation of state minister for religious affairs for failing to handle the very sensitive issue properly. Two other MPs from Jatiya Party – Pir Faazlur Rahman and Feroze Rashid – also came down heavily on the state minister on the issue.
“I expect the religious affairs minister to resign over this moon-sighting issue and the national moon-sighting committee to be abolished,” Harun, lawmaker from Chapainawabganj-3 said while speaking on the point of order.
Lambasting the minister, he also questioned what job of the national moon-sighting committee was doing. “The moon is usually sighted during the evening. The moon is supposed to be sighted at sunset but the state minister had twice confused the nation—at first telling no celebration and again telling celebration will take place next morning.
This is too much and discipline mut be restored, he said. 12.06.2019.

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