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Middle East

Muslims begin marking the holy month of Ramadan

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-29

Muslims early on Sunday began marking the holy month of Ramadan, when those observing the fast will refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk until the Eid al-Fitr feast in late July.

Muslims in Tunisia gathered on rooftops at dawn to view the rising new moon through a telescope. Ramadan oficially begins when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted.

In a message marking the start of Ramadan, Saudi King Abdullah vowed to defeat the Islamist militants newly threatening the region, saying the kingdom would not tolerate threats from “terrorists” who are using religion "as a disguise".

The king's remarks came two days after he ordered all necessary measures to be taken to protect the country against potential threats stemming from the turmoil in neighbouring Iraq, where Sunni Islamist militants have seized several cities since launching an early June offensive.

“We will not let a band of terrorists, who have taken religion as a disguise behind which they hide private interests, to terrorise the protected Muslims, to touch our homeland or any of its sons or its protected residents,” King Abdullah said in a message at the start of the Muslim holy month.

Observations of Ramadan in Iraq are likely to be overshadowed by the recent violence as Islamist rebels continue to make gains by seizing cities in the north and west while a political crisis engulfs the Iraqi leadership in Baghdad.

Ramadan in war-torn Syria is likely to be a sombre affair, with much of the nation suffering from shortages of food and medical supplies as regime forces and opposition rebels continue to battle for control of the country.

Football fans undeterred

In Indonesia – which has the world's largest Muslim population at around 225 million people – football fans largely ignored threats from hardliners to launch raids on bars selling alcohol or showing the World Cup.

Authorities usually order bars and other nightspots to close earlier during the holy month. But the threats did little to deter people in the football-crazy nation – where most people practise a moderate form of Islam – and bars in Jakarta were packed with locals and expatriates late Saturday and early on Sunday.

"For me, the fasting does not really affect my enthusiasm to watch the World Cup," said Intania Permata, a 22-year-old student, who was watching the Brazil versus Chile nail-biter at a South American-themed bar and restaurant.

The holy season presents a dilemma for Muslim players at the World Cup, as fasting will affect the strict diets they usually follow and could compromise athletic performance.

For many Indonesians, the start of Ramadan is a time to be with their families or take part in special prayers, with thousands heading to Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, the biggest in Southeast Asia, on Saturday evening.

Sri Lanka's Muslims, who account for about 10 percent of the country's 20 million mainly Buddhist population, are set observe a low-key Ramadan after four people were killed in religious riots earlier this month.

In the predominantly Catholic nation of the Philippines, the country's Muslim minority was observing its first Ramadan since the signing of a peace deal in March between the government and the country's largest Islamist rebel group after decades of conflict. Von al-Haq, military spokesman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the former rebels would use the holy month to try to persuade breakaway groups still fighting the government to lay down their arms.

Malaysia's Muslims, who account for 60 percent of the country's 28 million people, will spend the late afternoon buying food at markets or meeting at restaurants to break the first fast together in the evening. There will also be special prayers at mosques every night during the holy month.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS and AP)

 

Date created : 2014-06-29

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