While the bombing was in full swing, Muslim clergymen and heads of state were urging Washington to relent during Ramadan to avoid alienating Muslims. Otherwise, warned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, there would be "negative fallout in the entire Muslim world." But even then--and although the Bush administration gave no promise to ease the pressure--Ramadan preparations indicated the post-fast feasting would be no less sumptuous, TV fare no less lively and business no less brisk.
The holiday could begin any day from Thursday to Saturday, depending on the first sighting of the crescent moon. On the streets of Kuwait, Muslims questioned at random Wednesday expressed relief the heaviest bombing seemed to be over. "It's going to be a good Ramadan now that they have stopped the bombing," said Mohammed Haidar, 65. "They were hitting innocent Muslims, and that was not good."
Muslims say there's not much they can do for the Afghans besides send them money and pray for them. Mufti Mohammed Younus, a cleric at a mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, said that donations for Afghans would increase during the Islamic month, and that while anti-U.S. protests would continue, he did not expect them to intensify. "We will appeal to people to give money, clothes and medicines for their impoverished Afghan brethren," Younus said.
There are perennial fears that at least some of the money will end up in the coffers of Islamic militants. In Kuwait, some people said they would give their money to government-run charities to make sure it gets to the right people. In the northern Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir, which is mainly Muslim, writer Ali Imran said that if the bombing continued during Ramadan, "it would further strengthen the belief that it is not a war against terror but against Islam."
Ramadan marks God's revelation of the Quran, Islam's holy book, to the Prophet Muhammad nearly 1,400 years ago. Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex during daylight hours in an act of sacrifice and purification. It is a time of introspection, prayer and compassion. Each day of fasting ends with family and friends gathering, sometimes in tents, to share a rich meal that begins with dates, juice and soup and ends with sticky pastries.
In the United Arab Emirates, U.S. fast-food chains are introducing dates and special soups as part of an "all you can eat" Ramadan menu. "We expect better performance this year," said Amro Hammouda, area manager for Hardees in Sharjah. "There was a boycott of American chains last year."
That boycott was in support of the Palestinian uprising against Israel and against the United States for backing the Jewish state. This year, however, there have been no boycott calls. At the Ramadan corner of Kuwait's biggest supermarket, shelves were stacked with California prunes, Turkish apricots, Iranian figs. In the last 10 days of Ramadan, children dress in traditional long robes and go around the neighborhood trick-or-treating Kuwaiti-style. They sing a special Ramadan song and earn a handful of nuts and candy for their effort.
In Jordan, Jamil Abu-Baker, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, said it was preparing a Ramadan program that will include mosque preaching and stepped-up aid to Afghanistan. "It will be a gloomy month because of all the atrocities committed against Muslims," he said.
Ramadan tents were going up in Lebanon. The all-night singing and dancing that used to accompany Ramadan meals were toned down, but that trend started years ago, prompted by clergymen who called the merrymaking un-Islamic. In Malaysia, every hotel and country club planned a Ramadan buffet, where observant Muslims can line up with their plates as dusk nears, awaiting the signal to break their fast. Solidarity with the Afghan people has been expressed in donations of food, clothing and money.
In Egypt, Nile-side restaurants promised special Ramadan menus, and vendors peddled six-faceted Ramadan lanterns made of colored glass, with the top shaped like an Islamic dome. The lanterns are believed to date back to Egypt's medieval Fatimid dynasty. Every year around Ramadan, the caliph, or ruler, would go outside the old city to see if the crescent moon had appeared. Cairo citizens would follow him with lanterns to light the way.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas asked a question: Would Egyptians follow their usual tradition of watching special Ramadan TV fare "if they were interrupted by news flashes that constantly carry these days news about the death of dozens of unarmed Afghans as a result of the U.S. strikes that will not stop during this holy month?" In fact, Egypt's state-run television has, as usual, prepared a smorgasbord of Ramadan offerings, including about 10 dramas expected to feature the usual ingredients: love triumphs, the corrupt fall and the villains get caught. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed