On Ramadan, time to combat hatred

Ramadan is the ideal time to speak out against hatred, intolerance, violence and extremism in all their forms.

July 23, 2012 23:42
4 minute read.
Muslims shop for Ramadan decorations in Jerusalem.

Muslims shop for Ramadan decorations in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)


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Ramadan 2012 is here, but the Middle East and parts of South Asia are riddled with violence and conflicts, instead of peace and security.

That is 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.

On Wednesday, July 18, Al Jazeera aired a roundtable discussion with a number of analysts discussing Syria.

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.

Ramadan 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 spirituality.

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.

It’s too 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.

The majority 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, Pakistan.

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 violence.

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 Pakistan.

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 Mr.

Nawaz and more organizations like Quilliam.

Fear and 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 courageously.

Ramadan is the ideal time to speak out against hatred, intolerance, violence and extremism in all their forms. But where is the outrage?

The writer is an associate professor at the US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. The views expressed are her own.

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