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Ramadan

Three near-certainties accompany the Muslim holy month of Ramadan: in Islamic countries, the stock market climbs; in Jerusalem, the already amplified pre-dawn adhān, or call to prayer, becomes even more piercing than usual; and there is a steep rise in Muslim bloodletting.

Relevant Links
What Terrorists Forget  Syafiq Basri Assegaf, Jakarta Globe. Muslims all over the world understand that they must not harm anyone.
What is Moderate Islam?  Wall Street Journal. In a symposium sparked by the debate over a proposed mosque at Ground Zero, six leading thinkers consider the nature of Islam.   
Moderate Muslims are Not the Answer  Reuel Marc Gerecht, New Republic. Dissidents, even outspoken ones, are too far from the furnace to be an essential element in the battle against jihadism; other moderating forces count more.   

At around the time Jews will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah, more than a billion Muslims will mark the conclusion of Ramadan with festive Eid al-Fitr meals. For the past month, observant Muslims have abstained from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset to commemorate the handing down of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. The faithful are entreated to curb wicked intentions, practice humility, and pray for forgiveness.

No doubt, for many of the faithful, Ramadan is a period of quiet reflection and spiritual serenity. For many others, however, especially in places where large numbers of Muslims cross paths with Hindus, Christians, or Jews, it is an occasion for barbarity. It is said that the gates of hell are closed during Ramadan, funneling martyrs to heaven with ease.

In Kashmir, Muslim violence against Indian security forces regularly spikes during Ramadan. Elsewhere, killing a Christian during Ramadan is deemed especially meritorious: a Syrian Catholic abducted in Mosul, north of Baghdad, was murdered this year even though the kidnappers' ransom demands had been met. All up and down Iraq, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, and snipers have taken an ungodly toll of innocent lives. In Somalia, Islamist suicide bombers killed 31 people at a Mogadishu hotel. In Lebanon, Sunnis killed Shiites and Shiites killed Sunnis in disputes over turf.

Thousands of miles away, in southern Thailand where Muslims are in the majority, Islamists set off a deadly explosive device killing, among others, a two-year-old boy. Again the reason given was Ramadan, a period in which, the Chinese news agency Xinhua notes matter-of-factly, "violence in the region always flares up." In Chechnya, bands of men attacked women in the street for not wearing headscarves. Scores of foreign troops battling the Taliban in Afghanistan have been killed, as have many civilians targeted as they shopped for food to break the fast.

Practicing Muslims are now a visible element of daily life in Europe and the Americas, and Ramadan is no longer on the margins of Western consciousness. This year, many British and U.S. news outlets provided coverage of the start of the month-long fast; others helpfully offered special features ranging from news of pertinent iPhone applications to discussions about the propriety of Muslim women visiting hair salons during the month. 

Spokesmen for other faiths, trying to look beyond the miasma of violence, have conscientiously focused on the season's spiritual aspects. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sent greetings in 31 languages, attributing Ramadan-related violence—obliquely termed a "manipulation of religion"—to ignorance, poverty, and injustice. In India, The Hindu published an article by a Muslim author extolling the festival, while from the U.S. a respected Hindu leader sent Ramadan greetings to Muslims worldwide.

In Israel, Christians and Jews distributed food baskets to 250 needy Muslim families in the town of Lod, while in Acre the town's chief rabbi joined an Iftar banquet tendered to promote respect for non-Jewish holidays in the Jewish state. Israeli soldiers who come into contact with Palestinian Arabs have been given sensitivity training and instructed not to eat in front of fasting Muslims. Israeli authorities have gone to great lengths to facilitate access for West Bank Muslims to their shrines atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

But no amount of ecumenical goodwill can change the fact that Ramadan is a blood-soaked period. What can be done about that? Only the Muslim faithful themselves can challenge Islamists bent on brutality. There is a glimmer of hope that this is beginning to happen, but it will take a thorough political and theological reformation before the bloodletting is taken out of Ramadan.

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COMMENTS

Jacque on September 6, 2010 at 8:12 am (Reply)
Too bad people murder and hide behind religion to get away with it.
Jeremiah Haber on September 6, 2010 at 9:51 am (Reply)
Given that there are around 1.2 and 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, one would expect large scale violence around the globe during this period wherever there are Muslims. After all, the claim in this article is that there is a religious connection between a spike in violence in Islam and Ramadan.

But all the author (whose cv shows no background in Islam or Muslim history) can do it is to point a few Islamist and Jihadi sectarian groups around the globe, whose incidents of violence, while significant and condemnable, are miniscule compared with the world Muslim population and with the classical teachings of Islam. And then he mixes that up with sectarian violence in Iraq and Lebanon with no Ramadan connection at all.
Lawecon on September 6, 2010 at 9:59 am (Reply)
Could you give us one example of an Islamic authority who recommends bloodshed during Ramadan or one statistical study that corroborates your contention that there is a "spike" in such bloodshed during Ramadan? Thought not.
Herb on September 6, 2010 at 2:22 pm (Reply)
"Jihad rising in Islamic holy month," by Nicholas Blanford in The Christian Science Monitor, October 30, 2003:

[...] "Ramadan is a month of commitment and renewal to their faith and also to their cause, whether by military or nonmilitary jihad," says Prof. Nizar Hamzeh, a specialist on political Islam at the American University of Beirut. "It is a month of martyrdom and commitment to one's Islamic ideology." [...]
Sheikh Maher Hammoud, a prominent Sunni cleric in Sidon, in south Lebanon, says that Ramadan is perceived by all Muslims as "the month of jihad." "It is not the Islamic way to bomb places like the Red Cross or Iraqi police. But in principle, Ramadan is a blessed month and known as a month for jihad." [...]

"Ramadan and crime: What Algerian authorities tried to hide," by St├ęphanie Plasse for Afrik News, September 2:

The holy month of Islamic fasting, Ramadan as an important element in the control of vice is being scrutinized after a study, published in August by El Watan and Le Matin and undertaken in 24 of Algeria's 48 wilayas (provinces) by the Abassa Institute, indicated that there is a marked rise in road accidents and violent attacks during the holy month. The survey has offended the Algerian authorities.
Is Ramadan risky? According to a survey, self-financed and undertaken in 2007 by the Abassa Institute, there is a marked rise in assaults and accidents in Algeria during the holy month. The survey shows that people are more aggressive (82%), less friendly (65%) and more selfish (56%)....

Algerian authorities have seized the survey results and tried to cover them up.

"Iraq attacks likely to increase during Ramadan, says US," by Jane Arraf for the Christian Science Monitor, August 9:

[...] Politically linked religious fervor tends to rise during the month, during which Muslims believe God revealed the Koran to the prophet Mohammad. Devout Muslims abstain from eating or drinking even water from sunrise to sundown to foster patience and humility. [...]
In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, six people were killed in a suicide car bomb at a gas station on Sunday.

On Monday in Baghdad, two traffic police and a civilian were killed in a bombing near police headquarters in Ghazaliya, in West Baghdad. Overall almost 30 traffic and city police are believed to have been killed in the past month.

Etc, etc, etc.

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