Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Seventeen

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

While acknowledging that many of my friends are caring and compassionate people who give to the needy during Ramada, and the rest of the year, it does seem that for some that sadaqah does not extend to sub-Saharan migrants.

There are hundreds of sub-Saharan refugees in Fez as well as a number of Syrian and other refugees from war zones. Many of them are Muslims and observing Ramadan. But who provides them with Ftour and do they feel welcome visiting the mosques?

The situation of migrants in Morocco is difficult and that while racism is still a major factor, there have been encouraging moves to change things. Back in September 2013, a government-appointed human rights body issued a seminal report that detailed a series of clashes between migrants and Moroccan police.

The report  elicited an immediate response from HM King Mohammed VI, who demanded that the government develop a migration policy. The result was as exceptional as it was unexpected. In as profound policy change, a year-long regularisation period started in January 2014.

Since then the Moroccan government has provided more than 18,000 migrants with legal residency status in the country for at least a year. But, it was a one-time period that closed in December, and whether new avenues to gain legal residency will open remains unclear.

"Ramadan is about helping others" -Somali refugee

Ramadan spirit appears to be a little thin on the ground for the migrants in Tangier. In recent days there has been a wave of arrests. It began Monday, June 29, with the eviction of squatters in the Boukhalef district of Tangier. On Friday, a police operation was carried out in another district of the city, near the airport. As a result, many of the migrants are reported to have taken refuge in neighbouring districts. There are also around 400 migrants currently in the forests near the Boukhalef neighbourhood.

Most migrants in Morocco live there illegally but approximately 30,000, from 116 different countries, applied during the regularisation process. The bulk of those approved came from Senegal, followed by Syria, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire. The government automatically granted the Syrian applicants legal status in tacit recognition of their refugee status.

Sub-Saharan Africans and Syrian refugees  remain a visible but marginalised part of Moroccan society and during Ramadan (and beyond) we should all do something to extend a welcome and give a helping hand. Or failing that, give to a charity that assists them. According to one British refugee charity 150 dirhams (10 UK pounds) will feed a Syrian refugee for 30 days.

Four Seasons Marrakech advertises Ftour for 320 dirhams

Having Ftour at the Four Seasons in Marrakech costs 320 dirhams. That amount would provide a day's supply of food for sixty refugees or feed one Syrian refugee for sixty days, twice the length of Ramadan.

In countries such as Pakistan there is a strong tradition of actively getting out and providing food and clothing to poor rural families. In cities like Islamabad middle class families provide food every afternoon to poor neighbours. It is not unusual to see a line of people form up just before Iftar and then to be given food by the head of the household.

A lack of charity and international aid causes a vacuum which extremist groups are happy to fill. In Pakistan, groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba) are banned, yet still manage to provide a huge amount of support for the poor and displaced. The outcome is increased support for the group.

 Jamaat-ud-Dawa advertising on open display during Ramadan

Vandalism continues

Walking past the bronze statues of lions in the centre of the Ville Nouvelle in Fez, a local policeman told me that Daesh (ISIS) jihadists had destroyed a famous statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra.

I checked online and came across confirmation of the vandalism from Syrian historian Abdelkarim Maamoun, who was quoted as saying the statue, known as the Lion of al-Lat, was an irreplaceable piece and was  destroyed last week.

"Daesh  (ISIS) members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three metres (10 feet) tall and weight 15 tonnes," Abdelkarim said. "It's the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra's heritage."

The limestone statue was discovered in 1977 by a Polish archeological mission at the temple of Al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess, and dated back to the first century CE.

Mr Abdelkarim said the statue had been covered with a metal plate and sandbags to protect it from fighting "but we never imagined that Daesh would come to the town to destroy it."

Daesh captured Palmyra, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site, from government forces on May 21, prompting international concerns about the fate of the city's antiquities. So far, the city's most famous sites have been left intact, though there are reports that Daesh has mined them.

Time for some good news

Fez's Qaraouiyne university is the oldest in the world and is the only Arab university founded by a woman. Now it is to become an antidote to Daesh and their perverted beliefs

Set up in 859 and still fully active, a royal decree will now make it into a hub for studies on contemporary Islam and a cultural bulwark against Daesh (ISIS). The university acts as a benchmark for moderate-leaning, top-quality education in religious studies, history, jurisprudence and Islamic philosophy. The royal decree, the most recent of a number of measures launched to reassert the Moroccan character of the religion linked to the Malakite school, which includes a ban on imams taking positions on political and union issues, is now focusing on training.

Under royal auspices, the university will remain independent from the economic and academic point of view but will have to draw up a number of reforms to promote Islam, develop research on the text of the Qur'an and study Moroccan history and doctrine in greater depth, focusing especially on comparative jurisprudence. The step is an attempt to come apace with the contemporary world with further, modern training for religious authorities - from the ulema to mosque preachers. For this reason, the Fez university will be called upon to form a network with such training institutions as Morocco's Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation and the Royal Institute of History Studies.

Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran! 

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Abderrahim and his three friends meet for Iftar in Casablanca. They had not seen each other since leaving school some thirty years earlier.

When Abderrahim went outside to have a smoke, his three friends began talking about how successful their sons had become.

The first man said his son studied economics, became a banker and was so rich he gave his best friend a 5000 USD for his birthday.

The second man said his son was a pilot, started his own airline and became so rich he gave his best friend a brand new Harley Davidson.

The third man said his son became an engineer, started his own development company, and was so rich he gaved his best friend a month long vacation in Australia.

When Abderrahim returned from having his cigarette he asked what the intense discussion had been about. So the three men said they had been talking about how successful their sons had become.

"And what about your son?" asked the first man

Abderrahim shrugged and confessed that his son had not completed his university degree and was not in work.

The three men commiserated with him. "You must be very disappointed," one of them said.

"Not at all," Abderrahim replied, "he's a friendly chap and everybody likes him. Why, only last week, for his birthday, his friends gave him 5000 USD, a Harley Davidson and a month long holiday in Australia."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY TWO       DAY SIX           DAY TEN            DAY FOURTEEN

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Friday, July 03, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Sixteen

Ibn Warraq's increasingly erratic Ramadan musings...

It is amazing how quickly after reaching the halfway mark of Ramadan people's minds turn to Laylat al-Qadr, Leilat Sabawachrine and then Eid. The annual refrain (from young children) has already started. "I need new clothes, I need a tiara, I need henna...". Make no mistake, children are wonderful, but during the second half of Ramadan they become rather expensive!

The tiara and clutch purse are "essential"

Laylat Al Qadr is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims, and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. It is known as the "Night of Power," and commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, beginning with the exhortation, "Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)," - Surat Al-Alaq.

The Prophet Muhammad did not mention exactly when the "Night of Power" would be, although most scholars believe it falls on one of the odd-numbered nights of the final ten days of Ramadan, such as the 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, or 27th days of Ramadan. In Morocco it is most widely believed to fall on the 27th day of Ramadan.

On this night, the blessings and mercy of Allah are abundant, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree of what will occur is revealed to the angels who also descend to earth.

Many Muslims observe this occasion with study, devotional readings, and prayer. Some Muslims participate in a spiritual retreat called itikaf, where they spend all ten days in the mosque reading the Quran and praying, but according to a local Imam, the number of people doing this has declined over the years.

Then there is the Leilat Sabawachrine - literally the "night of the 27th"  - is a night especially for children - a time when they dress in their finest clothes.

... and boys get to dress up as well

For girls this also means having their hands and feet covered in beautiful henna designs and wearing makeup and jewellery. Once dressed, they take to the streets where many of them were happy to receive gifts of sweets or money. Of course, most children will tell you, that to take part they need new clothes!

It is only the 16th day, but already the tiaras are on sale, ready for the 27th

Meanwhile, out in the country...

There is a saying, "Come to Morocco and prepare to be astonished. There is another saying "In Morocco everything is possible."

For proof of both sayings look no further than the astonishing photograph of a grand taxi proving that carrying ten passengers is uncomfortable, but possible - especially if you are desperate to get home for Ftour!

Nikah or nothing!

In light of all the discussion going on about moral and sexual issues, it is interesting to learn that Britain is having a surge in secret nikah (Islamic marriage) and, according to a leading British family lawyer, many of them are polygamous. According to a report in The Times, young Muslims, as many as 100,000 couples, are shunning legally binding unions. And, for young unmarried girls it is "nikah, or nothing"!

One of the reasons for this rise in Sharia marriages is that it is a way around the prohibition on sex before marriage and that there is no splitting of assets if they divorce. The nikah are not valid under UK law and by bypassing the registry office procedures many women are left without assets if the relationship ends.

More good deeds in Ramadan

Back in June,  a young schizophrenic who happened to be a Muslim, vandalised a church in Toronto. He tore the pages from a Bible,  broke the altar and overturned the cross.

Imam Hamid Slimi

Imam Hamid Slimi called it "a very bad scene." and decided to do something about it.  The Moroccan-born imam collected 5,000 Canadian dollars  and went to visit the priest in charge of the premises who showed him pictures of the incident.

"When I saw the damage, I thought it was sheer injustice. It was just wrong, "said the imam who is also president of the Canadian Centre for Religious Studies at the Sayeda Khadija Centre.

The priest announced the news of the 5,000 dollar donation to the faithful at the Mass last Sunday, urging them to "pray for the one who committed this act,  and to forgive and forget."

For Hamid Slimi it was simple, "there is no discrimination in charity. It is the act that is rewarded regardless of the one who receives."

What you post on Facebook may come back to haunt you.

An interesting side issue that has emerged during the ongoing discussion about the assault on a transgender person in Fez is that while around the world there has been a general revulsion at the attack, others, mainly young people in Morocco, have used it as an excuse to post homophobic messages. This use of social media to spread hate has a downside for the ignorant. Posting hate speech at any time is wrong. and doubly so during Ramadan - a time of reflection and tolerance. Poison speech poisons the speaker.

Discussing this over coffee after Ftour, a local business man said that he had changed his mind about offering a young woman a position as a manager in his Riad Hotel, after he saw her "anti-gay" vitriol on Facebook. "How could I have her work for me, knowing she was so homophobic?" It was, as a Buddhist friend would have said, "instant karma".

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane 

In light of the case of the Inezgane girls and the anti-gay behaviour, the state wants to put the record straight. A joint statement from the Department of Justice and the Interior Ministry was direct, " any act or action to substitute for justice or law enforcement is totally illegal."

And the sentiment is being expressed all the way to the top of the government, with the Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, condemning the attackers in Fez, saying that "no one has the right to sit as a judge and a substitute for justice". He went on to say that "The state will be uncompromising in treating such cases and does not allow this kind of behaviour."

Support has also been expressed by Moroccan-born imam Hassan Iquioussen, who went on the record in France, saying that "a Muslim is not invested with a mission to spy and snoop into people's privacy".

At the same time the police have continued with their arrests, not only over the disgraceful mob attack in Fez, but also with the crowd who harassed two young women in Inezgane for wearing dresses.

After all of this, it would be a relief to be back in the "good old days" when after Iftar discussion was about the deplorable state of television.
Which reminds me! Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran! 

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

The View from Fez's Foreign Corespondent is a woman with a long and abiding interest in gender roles amongst Sunni Muslims particularly in Afghanistan.

Back in the 1990s long before the current Afghan hostility she spotted that women walked about four paces behind their husbands.

When our Foreign Corespondent returned to Kabul a couple of weeks ago she noted, with regret, that women still walked behind their husbands.

She pondered why, despite the establishment of women's rights, wives still paced behind their husbands. So she fell into conversation with one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why are you so happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?'

The woman looked our Foreign Corespondent straight in the eye and without hesitation said, "Land mines."

Our Foreign Corespondent filed this report : Behind every Afghan man, there's a very smart woman!

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY FIVE             DAY NINE            DAY THIRTEEN
DAY TWO         DAY SIX                 DAY TEN              DAY FOURTEEN

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