Ramadan, 1429

Press review – week 1st to 5 september 2008

Since the beginning of the week, the month of Ramadan began for Muslims. For the uninitiated it represents only the fast, even the fasting himself. Ramadan stays unknown in our Western societies. In reality, Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar and recalls the beginning of the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad. It is now the month of Ramadan of the year 1429 of the Hijra (calendar based on the cycle of the moon, and not that of the sun, as the Gregorian calendar does). In the contemporary life of Muslims, this period is the time of privation and meditation, but also of celebration. Let’s discover the facets of Ramadan through its representations in the international media.

The Moroccan information website Bladi.net underlines the flowering of occasional jobs during the period of Ramadan. Many people try so to grow their income or escape unemployment for a while by selling ingredients, dishes or pastries. Each family needs to prepare iftar, but also, as pointed out by the sociologist Samira Kassimi, women are increasingly participating in the job market and haven’t much time to prepare dishes and pastries for the evening. Such a situation is therefore favorable to these occasional small businesses.

A little further east, the Egyptian weekly Al Ahram Hebdo devotes an entire section to the event of Ramadan. Some of the most varied topics will be discussed: the charity’s honored in Egypt during this period, the financial difficulties of families to cope simultaneously back to school and Ramadan but also the much more frivolous theme of the dramas of Ramadan. Frivolous yes, but nonetheless important. The evenings of Ramadan passed off with the family, and many are fond of watching television. The different channels are well aware of this phenomenon and therefore compete by offering varied programs for their audiences.

The website Turkish Daily News reported last week the preparations in progress in Sultanahmet in anticipation of Ramadan. Cultural programs are implemented, not only with prayers, but also with Sufi music or stories of the famous Nasreddine Hoca (pronounced Hodja). The entire cost will be borne by sales licenses granted to sellers wishing to practice their trade on the spot during the month.

In Senegal, finally, the daily Le Soleil conjures up a very pious approach of Ramadan, stressing the importance of praying during this month. The festivities and galas leave the room to conferences and religious gatherings, while some Senegalese pay special attention to the decency of their clothing. The rise in prices due to massive supplies and the difficulties it causes in households at the beginning of Ramadan is also mentioned.

In our Western press, Ramadan is also on the news. La Libre Belgique addresses the decision begin of Ramadan on Monday, while stating that Libya began Sunday and that Iran has decided to start the month on Tuesday. These departures in deferred can lead to confusion. They are due to the different degrees of accuracy in the methods used to observe the moon. Indeed, while some are using astronomic tools, others observe it with the naked eye, which can cause one to two days of difference between countries.

Le Monde for its part gives the floor to a few Muslims who express their conception of Ramadan. Fred, 36 years and young converted to Islam is beginning his first Ramadan. For him, this is « the domination of the mind over the body, also austerity to open yourself to the other, a space where social ties are tightening. » For Karim, Ramadan is a « real spiritual source which nourishes the soul, accentuates the faith and piety. » Others, like Mahdi or Laila, do not see intrinsic values in this period, but appreciate the moments in family she offers.

Ramadan is therefore both a period of fasting, deprivation, meditation, and a period of sharing, cultural effervescence and family tightening. These characteristics make it a difficult period, but also special, awaited and celebrated by Muslims worldwide.