Ramadan 2001, between a rock and a hard place

Edna Yaghi’s Column

Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Koran was sent down to mankind. It revealed by Gabriel to Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him). Fasting is a form of worship. It is a time when the faithful abstain from food, drink and conjugal relations. At this time, the more fortunate Muslims feel the pangs of hunger and remember those who are less fortunate.

Ramadan makes the fasting person more aware of the unity of Muslims and of the equality of rich and poor. Fasting transcends social barriers. It sharpens will power and prevents the fasting person from being a slave to his physical passions. It is a time for forgiveness, mercy, and charity.

But this Ramadan is a very sad time for the Muslim faithful. We are between a rock and a hard place. Every day, Palestinians die on the streets of Palestine. At least one Palestinian dies every day, and on some days, Palestinians die by the fives, tens and yes, even twenties. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is busy slaying the indigenous inhabitants whose land he is taking away from them while Americans and company with the aid of the Northern Alliance, are busy slaughtering the Taleban and other Afghans as well.

The slaughter goes on between a rock and a hard place while Muslims all over the world watch. On many Arab stations, there is singing and dancing, fireworks and celebrations while not so far away, blood is shed in the dust of Afghanistan and in the gutters of Palestine. It is not that the Northern Alliance is terribly noble or that they are spreading freedom all over Afghanistan. They commit massacres as they go along and to die is better than to be tortured and then brutally shot down by them in cold blood. There have been chilling scenes of the Northern Alliance brutally torturing their victims after the fall of Kabul. The Northern Alliance have never been known for their kindness or for showing mercy to their enemies. The painful thing is, that both the Taleban and the Northern Alliance are Muslim, are Afghans, yet they are killing each other at the expense of their own people and country.

While Americans are jubilant that at last Afghan women will shed their bourqa, they seem to pay little attention to the fact that the American government is still bombing the country off the face of the map. Five thousand and 1 thousand pound bombs have targeted every major town as well as rural area. Cluster bombs and depleted uranium ammunition are the forms of horror being waged against one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Prior to the American attack on this most impoverished country, only 13% of the population had access to drinking water and the per capita income was $180 per year.

American President George Bush has used the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as an excuse to expand American domination and control in the Middle East. Don’t forget Georgie Jr. is the son of Daddy Sr., the Texas oilman. Two third’s of the world’s known oil reserves lie in the Gulf area. And the Caspian region has even more enticing treasures in oil and gas reserves in excess of trillions of dollars. And lest we Muslims forget, this inhumane bombing of the Afghan people is to continue during Ramadan in order to combat terrorism while the greatest form of terrorism-bombardment by air goes on. How many times have American planes targeted hospitals, mosques, Red Cross and Red Crescent warehouses and medical centers, homes and caravans carrying Afghan refugees? How many times have American planes returned to the scenes of their crimes to rebomb the same targets while the living rush to retrieve the survivors only to die themselves in the process?

At this time, the sanctions remain enforced in Iraq. While Muslims fast and celebrate Ramadan some 8,000 to 12,000 Iraqis die each month. Five thousand of these are children under the age of five.

In Palestine, the suffering continues. Since Intifada Al Aqsa, more than 800 Palestinians have been killed and more than 16,000 seriously injured. Women are killed in their homes tending their children, while out searching for food or when visiting their parents. Children are killed while sleeping, while playing outside their homes, or on their way to school, or even within the school building itself. The elderly are not spared neither are the physically impaired. Two deaf men were killed by Israeli soldiers, one who went out to buy bread for his 5 children, and the other who went to pray the dawn prayer at a local mosque.

More than 70 Palestinians have been extra judicially killed by Israeli death squads. These Palestinians were freedom fighters trying to win independence for their people. Every bullet used by Israelis, every tank, every plane, every helicopter, every bulldozer, is American-made. These weapons are used against the Palestinian people in order to destroy their homes, farmland, businesses, and way of living and to kill them. And every year the US government donates more then $4 billion to fund the destruction of the Palestinian people to the Israeli government.

More than 3 million Palestinians are held captive in their homes and in the concentration camp cities they are forced to inhabit. They are provoked 24 hours a day to resist occupation, yet Sharon insists on his rhetoric that the Palestinians must stop the violence while Israeli tanks invade Palestinian areas and shoot at random the innocent. Nowhere in the world do soldiers take delight in the shoot-to-kill attitude as the Israeli soldiers do when aiming at the heads and hearts of small children who throw stones in the name of freedom.

This Ramadan we must fast and observe our religious duties but we must also hang our heads in shame that we allow the injustices in Palestine, in Iraq and in Afghanistan to continue while we have the power to stop it.