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A Different Ramadan

Anwar Mahmoud Hassanain

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In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful.

“I thought the Israelis would ease travel restrictions as a good gesture for Ramadan but they did not,” said a Palestinian housewife. In contrast, USA-led occupation forces say they will lift a night-time curfew across Baghdad and have been drilled on the customs of Ramadan. However, the contrast comes as no surprise for a Muslim well-versed in Qur’anic scripture: “Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.” [Holy Qur’an, 5: 82]
Prevented by Israeli occupiers from gaining access to the mosque, a devout Palestinian Muslim prays in public, ignoring laughter from brutal racist soldiers.
What makes Ramadan different for Muslims this year is that it coincides with the war in Iraq. The on-going Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been with Muslims over several Ramadans before. However, this year Ramadan in the territories too is also different. It coincides with the building of a so-called Israeli security wall that further encroaches on Palestinian territory.

The Ramadan contrasts between Iraq and the occupied territories meanwhile went a step further as Palestinians followed one religious authority and marked the beginning of the month of fasting in accordance with the directions of that central authority. Millions of Muslims in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and Palestine began fasting Sunday. In Iraq it was a different story even amongst Sunnis. Sunni Muslims observed Ramadan in Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah, west of the capital, while in places like Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam; many Sunnis did not begin the fasting month. In Kurdistan, in the northern parts of the country, where the majority of people are Sunnis, the religious authorities there said Ramadan would begin Monday.

“This reflects the power and authority void,” said Abdel Sattar Abdel Jabbar, from the highest Sunni authority in Iraq, the Muslim Ulema Authority. Before the fall of the Saddam regime, “there was an official authority that announced these informations, while today there is no government nor any power,” he said. The Iraqi Media Network, set up by the USA-led coalition, has declared that the new moon had not been sighted, and thus announced that the month of Ramadan would begin Monday. But the announcement was followed a few hours later by a contradictory declaration from religious authorities in Fallujah, a main Sunni anti-coalition stronghold. In Iraq, traditionally, the Shiites start Ramadan a day after the Sunnis.

On the ground, military confrontations between Muslims and none Muslims in Iraq and the territories were also in sharp contrast. In Baghdad, resistance fighters fired rockets on Sunday into a hotel where USA Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying, killing a USA soldier and wounding 17 people in an attack on the heart of American power in the country. Wolfowitz escaped unhurt from the strike on the Rashid Hotel, inside a heavily fortified compound, which also houses the headquarters of Iraq’s USA-led administration. He vowed the United States would not be cowed into abandoning Iraq. On Monday, a strong explosion rocked an area of Baghdad near the Red Cross building. At least one other explosion could be heard soon after the first one Monday. It appeared the second explosion was in the area of the al-Shaab neighbourhood. Here the holy month began with Muslims on the offensive.

In Gaza, Israel dynamited three high-rise buildings near Netzarim, the Israeli settlement and army base that Palestinian resistance fighters attacked on Friday killing three Israeli occupation soldiers. Israel briefly evacuated 2,000 Palestinians from their homes in the dead of night before blowing up the buildings. The explosion rocked the area for miles around and sent plumes of black smoke and debris into the air and causing damage to many nearby Palestinian homes. Before dynamiting the buildings, Israeli occupation troops blew up a Palestinian police post where the occupation army said one of Friday’s attackers had fled and received shelter. Here the holy month began with Muslims on the defensive.

A resident of Baghdad (disguised) jumps for joy as another strike is made by resistance fighters against the USA occupiers.

A resident of Baghdad (disguised) jumps for joy as another strike is made by resistance fighters against the USA occupiers.

In other interesting developments, the Israeli cabinet decided to set up a central register of Jewish property abandoned by fugitives from Europe, Arab countries and Iran. According to Israeli official sources, the record would be used as a response to claims for compensation by Palestinian refugees in future peace talks.  Many Palestinians lost property after fleeing or being forced out of what is now Israel during the two-year war that followed its establishment in 1948.

It’s interesting to note at this juncture, that while the Americans who have been in Iraq for just a little over six months are just beginning to understand that their war in Iraq is going to be long and sustained, the Israelis who have already been engaged in long and sustained war with the Palestinians and their Arab neighbours appear to be digging in for an even longer war with their foes. In Washington, USA Secretary of State Colin Powell has admitted that the USA did not expect that American forces would face such intense and sustained attacks in Iraq. Mr. Powell was speaking after the attack on the Rashid hotel.

The parity between the two sides on this front has apparently induced Washington to drop its opposition to Israel’s construction of security barriers through the West Bank. It is now reported that the White House is involved in detailed negotiations over the Israeli project that has divided communities and disrupted the lives of thousands of Palestinians. Commentators close to both sides said on Saturday that negotiations over the wall, which may eventually cover several hundred miles at a cost of 1.5bn dollars, had become the central element of USA policy in the region following the collapse of the “road map” peace process. “The fence is now the name of the game,” said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Despite the contrast in USA and Israeli positions regarding good-will gestures during the Muslim holy month of fasting, the plight of the two none Muslim entities now surrounded on all sides by a majority Muslim population is drawing them even more closer than ever before-which again comes as no surprise to a Muslim well-versed in Qur’anic scripture: “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.” [Holy Qur’an, 5: 51]

There is no doubt about it. This is a different Ramadan. It’s a Ramadan that’s marked by clarity of vision. At least, this Ramadan will help all concerned to know where they stand. It will, Allah (swt) willing, remove false hopes that the entrenched enemies not only of Islam but of religion as revealed in all three holy books could see the light at the end of the tunnel of conflict: “There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever, unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone” [Holy Qur’an, 60: 4]

Published Tuesday, October 28th, 2003 - 03:58pm GMT

Article courtesy of Islam Web

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