Friday November 16, 2018

The holy month of Ramadan: Religious beliefs in a commercialized world

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By Rukma Singh

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.

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A crescent moon can be seen over palm trees at sunset in Manama, Bahrain, marking the beginning of the Muslim month of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, observers are expected to abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures from dawn to dusk. Leaving these activities out from the daily routine is intended to help the mind concentrate on prayer, spirituality, charity, and to purify the body and mind. Muslims are also expected to not indulge in negative activities such as gossiping and cursing. Some reports have also claimed that crime rates decrease during Ramadan, with a heavy decrease in the number of murders.

Exceptions

Fasting during Ramadan is believed to have been decided keeping in mind all kinds of social, physical as well as political factors. One isn’t forced to fast. Pregnant women, people who are mentally or physically ill, and sometimes women who are breastfeeding are specially excused from fasting because of their health constraints and nutritional requirements. Even children aren’t obliged to fast till the time they hit puberty.

Impact on daily life 

Ramadan in Egypt

In countries where Muslims are the majority, Ramadan has a drastic impact on daily life. Egypt pushes the clocks back an hour during the holy month so that the fast feels like it is ending earlier and the evenings are lengthened. Work days are made shorter during the month to accommodate the additional time spent in prayer and in enjoying festive meals to end the daily fast.

Economic consequences

Ramadan celebration in Mecca

If  bankers and economists in Muslim countries are to be believed, Ramadan almost always ushers in a month-long period of inflation as people drastically increase the amount of money spent on clothing and food. The prices of certain staples go up dramatically – according to a former Monitor correspondent in Cairo, during Ramadan a cup of tea can cost six times its normal price.

However, economic productivity also declines because of the shorter working hours and the general weakness among those abstaining from food and water all day.

Commercialism

Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan


In this highly profit driven world, no activity can be unlinked from the concept of money making. Like all celebrations and holidays, Ramadan has become largely commercialized around the world with waste and excess expenditures.

Advertisements skyrocket during the month, lavish buffets are offered and well spent on, and hotels in Mecca charge extraordinarily high prices to the pilgrims that fly to the holy city.  City dumps and hospitals are stretched to capacity because of the surge in food waste and gluttony.

At the end of Ramadan comes Eid ul Fitr, the celebration of which begins as soon as the new moon is sighted in the sky. Eid is an important festival for the Muslims. Amidst attending processions and exchanging gifts, Muslims must also contribute to a charity so that the poor may also celebrate the breaking of the fast.

Eid ul Fitr is also considered a time of reverence. Muslims praise Allah for helping them get through the month and ask for forgiveness for the sins they’ve committed.

 

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Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

Another man who was informed he was on the list told VOA he witnessed troops killing people from his village

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Rohingya
Rohingya refugee women wait outside of a medical center at Jamtoli camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

Rohingya Muslims who fled a brutal military campaign in Myanmar last year are living in fear after being told they are on a list of over 2,200 people due to be forcibly returned to the country this month.

Some have said they are considering taking their own lives to avoid being sent back to Rakhine state, where Myanmar’s military is accused of waging a genocidal campaign of mass murder and rape.

“If we go back, they can kill us, they can torture us. We have already lost everything once,” said one man from the Jamtoli camp, speaking on the condition of anonymity, who was told by camp officials he is on the list along with his family.

Bangladesh and Myanmar last month struck a deal to begin returning Rohingya refugees by “mid-November”. The 2,200 names were picked from a list of 8,000 that Bangladesh gave to Myanmar in February.

Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, Abul Kalam, has told Human Rights Watch the Rohingya on the list “were not chosen because they particularly wanted to go back.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since August last year from what UN investigators say is genocide. Myanmar has consistently denied the charge and says the campaign was a legitimate response to what it called terrorist attacks.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee,has called on both countries to scrap the plan to return people this month, warning Rohingya face a “high risk of persecution” if returned.

Rohingya
Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

The plan may also “violate obligations under customary international law to uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” she added.

“Bangladesh should not be sending anyone at this time,” Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist, told VOA. “Forcing survivors and refugees back to the killing fields where genocide is still going on is complicity in genocide.”

A humanitarian who works closely with the Rohingya community in Bangladesh said that, although Rohingya at Jamtoli had been told they are on the list, names had not yet been officially confirmed. Until the UN’s refugee agency receives an official list from the Bangladeshi government, “we’re not entirely sure,” who is due to be returned, they said.

They added that they were aware of one man who had attempted suicide after hearing he was on the list: “The issue is that the lack of clarity and communication alone is already causing harm regardless of whether repatriation actually starts.”

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya children and a woman at an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal, eastern India. VOA

Rohingya who believe they are on the list told VOA that a block leader in their camp said they would be moved to another location inside Bangladesh on November 12 in preparation for their return.

Myanmar has this year built “reception centers” and “transit camps” to house and process the expected returnees.

The facilities are surrounded by barbed wire and security posts, and advocates fear the camps could become permanent homes for returning Rohingya. “They are like concentration camps,” said Nay San Lwin.

Myanmar government spokesperson Zaw Htay told VOA he could not comment for this story.

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya women and children in an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal, eastern India. VOA

The Rohingya man from the Jamtoli camp in Bangladesh, who was told his family was on the list last week, said his mother recently fainted from the stress.

As he was fleeing Rakhine state in September last year he saw his nephew and son-in-law shot dead, he said.

“Other families who are being sent back are crying loudly, all day and night,” he told VOA. “One family on the list have lost their parents. They’re crying, they have no one to look after them.”

One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Another man who was informed he was on the list told VOA he witnessed troops killing people from his village as he fled Rakhine state at the end of August last year. “They were killing everyone, small children, the elderly, everyone,” he said.

Also Read: Should Promote Human Rights More in Myanmar: Facebook

Earlier this week two block leaders – Rohingya volunteers who help refugees communicate with officials – approached him with a form and asked how many family members he has, and for a picture of the head of the family.

He refused, he said, and an argument ensued. “We will never agree to go,” he told them. “If they make us go we will take our own lives here, this is our final decision.” (VOA)