Saturday, July 05, 2014

Spare a thought during Ramadan...

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the 4th pillar or obligation for Muslims around the world. This year political issues, insecurity and other factors are causing misery for thousands of the faithful and turning the joy of Ramadan into misery

iftar meal at Bashabsha camp near the Jordanian city of al-Ramtha, on the Syrian border

In Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya unrest and violence have turned what should have been a month of peace and reflection into an ongoing nightmare. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates that more 1.5 million are displaced inside Syria, up from a previous estimate of 500,000 reported at the end of May. Charity and humanitarian groups in Damascus are trying to provide shelter and Ramadan group iftars for displaced persons, but they have been unable to accommodate the increasing number of people who are fleeing their homes daily.

Ramadan in an Iraqi refugee camp

In Iraq the Jihadist group ISIS has declared a ‘new caliphate’ spanning the Middle East.

“The time has come for those generations that were drowning in oceans of disgrace, being nursed on the milk of humiliation, and being ruled by the vilest of all people, after their long slumber in the darkness of neglect — the time has come for them to rise,” ISIS statement.

For Iraq the declaration of a new caliphate, to replace the one abolished 90 years ago by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Turkey in 1924, is a declaration of war, because the Islamic State is viscerally anti-Shia – who make up 60 per cent of Iraq’s population and who it regards as heretics and apostates worthy of death. Its propaganda films show Shia truck drivers being questioned about how Sunni pray and, if they fail the test, they are shot in the head.

ISIS on the march

For people in Baghdad, a city of seven million people, the majority Shia, the expansion of the newly declared Islamic State is a terrifying prospect. The government counter-offensive towards Tikrit, 80 miles to the north, has stalled or been repulsed. As yet there has been no uprising by the Sunni enclaves in Baghdad or a renewed suicide bombing campaign in the capital, but Baghdadis think it could happen at any moment.

Unrest in Israel and the Palestinian territories is on the increase after thousands thronged on Friday afternoon to Shuafat, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir was snatched and slain before dawn on Wednesday, to give him a martyr’s burial after what is widely believed to have been a revenge attack by Jews angered by the abduction and killing last month of three Israeli students at yeshivas in the occupied West Bank.

No peaceful Ramadan in Jerusalem

Meanwhile in China, the authorities have gone so far as to impose a ban on fasting for Muslim students, teachers, and civil servants in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, during the holy month of Ramadan. This follows similar restrictions in previous years.

Home to many ethnic groups, Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China in the northwest of the country with a majority of its population followers of Islam, and according to France Agence Presse (AFP), several government departments posted notices on their websites, “banning civil servants, students, and teachers in Xinjiang from taking part in Ramadan fasting.”

Muslims in Xinjiang

“Civil servants and students cannot take part in fasting and other religious activities,”the Commercial Affairs Bureau of Turfan city said on its website on Monday.

The same source added that the state-run Bozhou Radio and TV University said on its website that it would “enforce the ban on party members, teachers, and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities.”

The spokesman for the exiled World Uygur Congress, Dilxadi Rexiti,warned that these “kinds of coercive measures, restricting the faith of Uygurs,”imposed by China,“will create more conflict. We call on China to ensure religious freedom for Uygurs and stop political repression of Ramadan.”

The Chinese government explained its action as part of its duty to ensure a healthy life for all its citizens. Others regard fasting as part of religious freedom, a fundamental human right guaranteed by constitutions worldwide.

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