On Ramadan, time to combat hatred
Ramadan is the ideal time to speak out against hatred, intolerance, violence and extremism in all their forms.
Muslims shop for Ramadan decorations in Jerusalem. Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters
Ramadan 2012 is here, but the Middle East and parts of South Asia are riddled
with violence and conflicts, instead of peace and security.
nothing unique to this year, as wars and conflicts have taken place during
Ramadan in the past, too. Bombings and suicide attacks in Iraq, Pakistan, and
Afghanistan throughout the years have not stopped for Ramadan. Suicide attacks
are particularly obscene, and discredit the peaceful and spiritual aura and
intentions of Ramadan.
Ramadan has actually emboldened the spirit of
jihadists throughout the years, whether it was the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, or
the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Now, analysts are predicting that Ramadan 2012
will continue to inspire and embolden the rebels in Syria, given the recent
killings of top national security officials in Damascus.
July 18, Al Jazeera aired a roundtable discussion with a number of analysts
The moderator asked about the impact of Ramadan. The
response was that Ramadan is likely to provide greater spiritual courage,
strength and inspiration in the fight against the Assad regime.
is supposed to be a time of spiritual reflection, introspection and peace – both
outer and inner. However, very rarely do those principles and practices seem to
be observed in hot conflict zones, as well as by terrorists and militants
proliferating worldwide. From Nigeria’s Boko Haram, to Somalia’s al Shabaab, the
Taliban and al Qaida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and al Qaida in the
Arabian Peninsula and Islamic Maghreb, there is no recourse, even by religious
mandate prohibiting violence during Ramadan. Instead, these elements seem to
mock the very principles of Ramadan that promote peace and
While Ramadan generates extraordinary communal
consciousness and harmony in many parts of the Islamic world, at the same time
it does not seem to hinder those who are determined to embrace violence. I have
seen admirable scenes of tables of food erected in the streets of Cairo at
sunset, inviting the public to partake in the fastbreaking meal.
bad that such images are not pervasive throughout the region, especially these
days, with the fight raging in Syria, and ongoing violence in Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Iraq. While communal friendship and the spirit of sharing might
heighten in Ramadan, the bullets and bombs continue to flow.
of the world’s Muslims are peaceful and nonviolent, and undoubtedly especially
during Ramadan they would like to see peace, harmony and security envelop the
world. But just in the first two days of Ramadan 2012, we have seen fierce
combat in parts of Syria including in Aleppo; militants carried out a suicide
attack killing nine and several other shooting and bombing incidents have
occurred in Pakistan as of this writing; Robert Fisk of The Independent reports
that women are being raped by both sides of the conflict in Syria; girls and
women in Afghanistan and Pakistan suffer acid attacks and many are murdered
outright; oil and gas pipelines have been bombed in Egypt’s Sinai and
southeastern Turkey; and shootouts are regular occurrences in Karachi,
This is not to say that non-Muslims do not commit violence. We
just witnessed the horrific massacre in Colorado, and Norway observed the
oneyear anniversary of Anders Breivik’s attacks that killed 77 in Oslo and
Utoeya. However, Ramadan is supposed to be a month of nonviolence, yet we see no
letup in many parts of the world.
WE NEED more brave voices taking on
militancy and extremism, voices like Maajid Nawaz, a former militant who has now
made it his life mission to speak against radical ideologies and
He has recently published his memoirs, Radical: My Journey from
Islamist Extremism to Democratic Awakening, plus he is on a busy lecture
circuit, even venturing into the most hardened and ultra-conservative parts of
He tries to persuade people that the ideology of radicals is
inaccurate and manipulative, playing on emotions and trying to recruit young
minds into their organizations to carry out their interpretation of jihad. Mr.
Nawaz has also founded an organization called the Quilliam Foundation, which
seeks to combat extremism with ideological warfare. We need more people like
Nawaz and more organizations like Quilliam.
intimidation are favorite tactics of extremists. On July 19 two prominent Muslim
officials were attacked in the Russian republic of Tatarstan. The chief mufti
survived a car bombing with two broken legs, while the other senior Muslim
official was shot dead. Both men had spoken out against radical ideologies, and
one of them called for a ban on Wahhabism in Russia.
The culture of
violence, extremism and intolerance proliferating throughout the world in the
form of jihadist groups and individuals must be combated fiercely and
Ramadan is the ideal time to speak out against hatred,
intolerance, violence and extremism in all their forms. But where is the
The writer is an associate professor at the US Naval War College,
Newport, Rhode Island. The views expressed are her own.