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Don’t bomb during Ramadan, Muslim leaders say


The presidents of Egypt and Indonesia have led efforts to persuade the United States and its allies to end bombing in Afghanistan before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, or, at least, to postpone the bombing campaign until the month ends.

“With all my heart, I hope the campaign can finish before Ramadan,” Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak said recently at a news conference.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, was quoted in the San Antonio Express News asking for the bombing, “which has taken so many innocent lives ... not to continue during the holy month of Ramadan and Christmas.”

Noting the plight of the thousands of homeless poor in Afghanistan, mostly separated from family during Ramadan this year, many other Muslims are calling for Bush’s fragile international coalition to show restraint during Ramadan, and at least limit bombing. “Continuing the military campaign is going to create tremendous pressures on Muslims worldwide and, in particular, on the weak fragile international coalition, said the American Muslim Council Nov. 5.

President Bush has rejected the pleas for a postponement of bombing, saying, “The enemy won’t rest during Ramadan, and neither will we.”

This year, Ramadan is to begin Nov. 16 or 17, when the new moon is first sighted. Muslims use a lunar calendar, so the start of the holy month changes by 11 days each year.

Muslims believe the early verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. Muslims who are able are expected to fast during the month from dawn to sunset, abstaining from drink, food, sexual relations and smoking.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars that form the basis of Islam. The other pillars are: praying; performing charitable acts; believing there is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once.

Ramadan is a time for reflection, increased attention to the poor and is traditionally spent with family in celebration of faith.

Islamic law does not strictly forbid war during Ramadan, however. In 1973, Syria and Egypt launched an attack on Israel during the holy month, and Iran and Iraq didn’t end fighting during their 1980-88 war.

National Catholic Reporter, November 23, 2001