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Muted celebrations for the end (or is it?) of Ramadan

While the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is usually marked by parties, this year Australian Muslims will also observe it with prayers for Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Gaza.

Today is Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Probably. Depending who you listen to.

Eid wouldn’t be Eid without the traditional argument about whether or not the moon could be seen with the naked eye and whether or not that matters, in an age of astronomical calculations and telescopes. But of course, it continues to matter a great deal — which is why some of us are stuffing our faces with baklava and gulab jamun today while others are still counting the minutes until sunset.

The time-honoured fracas over moon-sighting provides a bit of light relief to end what has been a Ramadan of grim tidings — from Iraq, from Syria, from Gaza. Celebrations in Australia are muted by the rising death tolls, by the graphic photographs of dead Palestinian children.

This bad news, however, is unlikely to slow the mainstreaming of Ramadan in Australia — not because of multiculturalism but because of commercialism. Ramadan provides a month-long opportunity of marketing to Australian Muslims. Of course the primary message of Ramadan is one of fasting, abstinence, and charity — but it is also a month-long season of indulgence: nothing to eat during daylight hours, followed by celebratory meals every evening to break the fast. More and more corporations, government departments and embassies have begun holding iftars — the evening banquet during Ramadan — for Muslim clients and customers.

There are, however, hazards to Ramadan marketing. For anti-Muslim racists, it’s a symbol of capitulation to the stealthy forces of jihad. So far, at least, attempts to mobilise a crusade against this have been tepid. A campaign against Woolworths by the Party of Freedom (who are they?) for posting Happy Ramadan signs in some of its stores failed to get off the ground, despite an initial round of tabloid interest. The campaign climaxed last Saturday when a total of eight anti-Muslim protesters were heavily outnumbered by anti-racism activists outside a Woolworths store in Marrickville.

The empty tables at Mike Baird’s iftar proved a more difficult situation. Many Muslim invitees stayed away from the event in protest of recent comments by NSW community relations chair Vic Alhadeff, chief of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, that Israel would do “whatever is needed to defend its citizens. All options are on the table.” As the death toll rises and the price of “whatever is needed” becomes more and more apparent, it was untenable for Muslims to break their fast alongside Alhadeff and, ultimately, untenable for him to remain as community relations chair. He has now stepped down from this position.

In the coming week, Muslims in Australia will attend prayers, exchange gifts, eat sweets and hold parties — but the bloodshed overseas will never be far from anyone’s mind.

*Shakira Hussein is undertaking a McKenzie postdoctoral fellowship on Muslim women, gender violence and racism at the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne.

5
  • 1
    mikeb
    Posted Monday, 28 July 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    What - you get to feast every night whilst on a fast? Where do i sign up? Having the observance during winter months is obviously an advantage as well. If Woollies can have hot cross buns for sale on boxing day then what’s the harm in having Ramadan sales?

  • 2
    Chris Hartwell
    Posted Monday, 28 July 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    The Party for Freedom, is a party which espouses anything but. I’ve had the poor fortune to browse their facebook page while it was still publicly accessible, and it is no exaggeration whatsoever to call them a National-Socialist-Lite party. There were numerous posters praising Hitler and lamenting how his efforts were merely misunderstood. I wish I was just Godwin’ing. The Australian First Party is closely aligned with the Party for Freedom, and preaches much the same content.

  • 3
    Rais
    Posted Monday, 28 July 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I like most of what Shakira writes but puzzle over the reference (oft repeated in the media) to feasting after the fast. I and most of the Muslims I know enjoy breaking the fast but cannot eat as much for the fast breaking as a normal dinner outside Ramadan. What I can say though is that despite the reduced quantity the taste of the food is enhanced by the fast. In answer to Mikeb, Ramadan rotates through all the seasons as it occurs 10 to 11 days earlier in each solar year. At the moment Aussie Muslims have it easy. You can’t imagine how delicious a glass of cold water is after fasting in summer. And yes, you’re welcome to sign up. I did, in 1968.

  • 4
    extra
    Posted Monday, 28 July 2014 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Shakira- Eid Mubarak!

  • 5
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 30 July 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Ironic that so gynophobic a religion is dependent on the remnants of the cult of Ishtar/Astarte.

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