Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rwanda: The Month of Ramadan - A Time to Reflect

Rwanda: The Month of Ramadan - A Time to Reflect

The New Times (Kigali)
October 2, 2006
Posted to the web October 3, 2006
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This year the month of Ramadan began on September 23 (Saudi Arabia, Gulf and parts of the Middle East) and September 24 elsewhere (including the rest of the Middle East). It lasts through October 23. Muslims believe that during Ramadan, the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) began.

The first day of the next month is spent in great celebrations and rejoicings and is observed as 'Eid ul-Fitr'. The fasting during Ramadan has been so predominant in defining the month that some have been led to believe the name of this month, Ramadan, is the name of Islamic fasting, when in reality the Arabic term for fasting is sawm. During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, angry and sarcastic retorts, refrain from gambling and betting and gossip (mark the bold words). Currently, the Islamic faith seems to be at a very tense moment of its existence. It seems to be drawn in a war with the Western world. Some have called it the preamble for the next world war. The secular world fighting with the Extremist Islamic world. Well I pray it never gets to this.

For sometime now the secularists and some Western governments that have branded terrorism as Islamic extremism have provoked the Muslims. Just the other day Pope Benedict XVI quoted an ancient text recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam. The remarks implied that Mohammad had spread Islam through violence. These comments raised tensions throughout the Muslim world ahead of his planned visit to Turkey in November. The Muslim world demanded an apology form the Pope himself. The Vatican argued and still does, that the Pope was misunderstood and meant no harm. Just a year ago and in the same month a Danish newspaper's publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W), triggered outrage in the Muslim world. And as if to prove a point of arrogance, several media houses in Europe reprinted the twelve cartoons of Prophet Mohammed over and over again. It was called freedom of speech! Former president, Bill Clinton added a sober voice when he condemned the cartoons.

Clinton described the cartoons as "appalling" and equated criticism of a person's chosen religion with racism. Not so long ago, The President of U.S.A George W. Bush had openly rightly declared some Muslim countries as an "Axis of Evil". It now seems like there is a conspiracy to re-brand Islam as a violent faith or at least to provoke peace loving Muslims to show violence. How else do you explain someone publishing cartoons of the highly revered Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) as a terrorist? What is the motive of the cartoonist really? You cannot insult my father or mother and then when I cry you call me emotional! The foreign policy of the West and America in particular is slowly turning many moderate Muslims into extremists. They feel they have a duty to defend their faith against insults and provocations.

Terrorism no longer seems to be a product of Middle East but a product of Washington and other European secularists who attack Islam and it's practices as backward. These same people have embarked on a campaign to "change the lives" of the people in the Muslim world. This strategy has now backfired and the West is trying to justify its campaigns in the Muslim world as a war against terror aimed at protecting the free world. Many were told of how Saddam mistreated his people and so the Americans came in to 'liberate' them. Now the liberated Iraqis are dying daily and peace seems further than they ever thought. Democracy was forced onto the Palestine people and the result was Hamas a militant group being democratically elected to office. Somalia became a worse place when the Americans came in and were forced to run for their lives later. Recently as they were trying to make a comeback a more militant and extremist group, Islamic Union took power and is now more popular with the local population.

Islam is a religion of peace. The West is branding it an intolerant religion. We ought to reflect on the cause-effect relationships before using words like tolerance. Why should some comments about Jews be tagged Anti-Semitic and racist while those against Islam and Arabs are called free speech? This propaganda from the West needs to be checked.

So as our brothers make an effort to refrain from violence, anger, and angry and sarcastic retorts during the Ramadan, I pray that the West does the same so as to make the world a better place.

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