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June 6th, 2019

The claimed Saudi Arab sighting of the new moon — a newspaper story

Around the last weekend I had read by chance in a local online UK newspaper, Birmingham Mail, speculation about the date of Eid-ul-Fitr. In this connection they displayed a table showing that on Monday 3rd June the new moon would not be visible in Makkah, Rabat the capitlal of Morocco, or various UK cities. (Note: Makkah and Morocco were listed because Muslims in UK follow moon sighting reports from these places, Makkah for obvious reasons, and Morocco because of being the nearest Muslim country.)

When Monday 3rd June came, the same online newspaper published the following news: “The date of Eid al-Fitr 2019 has been confirmed after a sighting of the first crescent of the new moon.The moon was seen at Mecca in Saudia Arabia on Monday, June 3, which is the 29th day of the holy month of Ramadan.”

On this, I e-mailed the reporter and said that this sighting was astronomically impossible, and in proof of this I referred them to the earlier story in their own newspaper (!), as well as other sources. I thought this would be the end of the matter, but the newspaper decided to publish a story based on this, to which I of course readily agreed. In fact, they published two items on this, the links to which are: item 1 and item 2.

I had hardly recovered from seeing my name in these items that a relation let me know that it had been picked up by Apple News from the UK national newspaper the Daily Express. See link.

I will let you read these yourselves, rather than summarising them.

— Zahid Aziz

Addendum to the above:

Here is a news item from The Economist, London, 8 June 2019, about moon sighting and that the Saudi Arab sighting was not accepted in some countries of the Middle East.

Here is a news item from the Urdu Daily Ummat, Karachi, 8 June 2019, about the error in the Saudi Arab announcement.

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