Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 16 News List

Happy Eid al-Adha!

While many in the Western world count down to a new year, Muslims across the globe will be celebrating a festival of animal sacrifice inspired by the story of the prophet Abraham

By Dewi Kurniawati  /  DPA , JAKARTA

The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, or the sacrifice season, is in the air, permeating the alleys, streets and neighborhood corners throughout Indonesia, the country with the largest population of Muslims in the world.

Eid al-Adha is a festival of animal sacrifice — inspired by the story of the prophet Abraham — and vendors are herding animals by the thousands into urban centers.

In Biblical lore, Abraham agreed to prove his loyalty to his Lord by sacrificing his own son, but a celestial hand stayed his knife at the last second and spared the child. The prophet then slaughtered a sheep as an offering.

During Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate Abraham's trials by slaughtering animals such as sheep, cows or goats.

For a few weeks before the big day, which falls on Dec. 31 this year for Indonesian Muslims, most people can tell it's time to sacrifice by just simply breathing. Nearly everywhere there is a particularly strong aroma in the air emitted by the live goats and cows on display.

Pedestrians and regular vendors in the crowded capital of Jakarta are feeling a bit claustrophobic as they have to share space with the sacrificial animals.

"I have been selling animals for Eid al-Adha for 15 years now, it's kind of an annual journey for my wife and I," said Warto, 50, who like many Indonesian only uses a single name.

"Every year I come all the way from central Java to try our luck selling these animals for the believers in Jakarta," he said.

Warto, his wife and 15 of his employees journeyed from Wonogiri, about 500km southeast of Jakarta, along with his 140 goats and 20 cows that he put on a humble display on a main street of Indonesia's capital. "By doing this, we also provide jobs for those who are jobless," Warto said.

They spent a week doing their daily chores in a very humble tent on the street, sharing their space with the animals.

Various sizes of goats and cows are on display for prices ranging from 800,000 rupiahs to 1.5 million rupiahs (about US$90 to US$165) for goats, or seven million rupiahs to 10 million rupiahs for cows (about US$780 to US$1,110).

"You may think it's funny, but without us coming all the way from central Java, faithful Muslims in Jakarta will find it difficult to buy animals for Eid al-Adha," Yatno, 36, another an animal seller in Jakarta said.

Kartono, a regular buyer of sacrificial animals, said every year he searches the capital's streets to find good-quality beasts.

"These sellers provide us with high-quality animals, and luckily, they are close by too," she said.

Kartono and many other Muslims avoid going to the main slaughterhouse in downtown Jakarta to get their animals. "It's too far away from our neighborhood," she said.

Warto, Yatno and many other sellers provide free slaughtering services for regular buyers, and they get to keep the animal's hide that is worth 200,000 rupiahs (about US$23).

The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away — one-third is eaten by immediate family, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor.

Social organizations and political parties have sent Eid al-Adha meat to the victims of natural disasters that have hit Indonesia in recent years.

The sacrificial-animal sellers bear witness to the nation's rapid development.

"I've noticed that it's getting harder to find good locations for the animals, since many new buildings and houses have now emerged in Jakarta," Warto said.

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