Moon sightings, politics play a part in Muslim holiday

2000 (1)Source: Associated Press

By ZEINA KARAM

BEIRUT (AP) — Muslims across the Middle East and beyond began Tuesday marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, one of the most celebrated holidays for the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, amid confusion about the start of the three-day holiday fed partly by political differences.

The holiday marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. But the start of the holiday varies from country to country — with splits even within the same country — because the start of Eid is traditionally based on sightings of the new moon, which sometimes differ from astronomical calculations and vary according to geographic location.

As with everything else in the Middle East, politics often plays a part — seemingly this year more than others — with countries that traditionally followed Saudi Arabia’s lead breaking with it this year, including the Palestinians and Jordan.

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