Ramadan Night’s All Right for Fighting

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Nov. 1 2001 12:24 PM

Ramadan Night’s All Right for Fighting

But the U.S. might want to stop bombing anyway.

(Continued from Page 1)

Ramadan is organized around fasting, and this self-denial is in large part intended to create empathy with suffering Muslims everywhere. So approximately a billion people across the world are soon going to be thinking about their daily hunger and Muslim suffering exactly when winter hits and CNN and Al Jazeera start to broadcast reports of freezing, starving Afghan children dying near roads and villages demolished by American bombs. According to the U.N.’s World Food Program, about 7 and a half million Afghans face starvation this winter. Does the United States really want to exacerbate that famine while the people it wants to win over fast every day?

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The United States may have a better option than bombing. Instead of doing what the Quran permits, we could do what it actually encourages.

According to Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Islamic scholar at UCLA: "Say I have a neighbor, and I extend a hand of kindness at the beginning of Ramadan. If he says ‘go to hell,’ Ramadan does not obligate me to turn the other cheek. What it requires is that I have made a good-faith effort at finding a moral way to resolve the conflict." The Quran also very specifically supports nonviolent resolutions during the month: "Know that God is with those who restrain themselves" (9:36).

Thus, Ramadan gives an opportunity for reconciliation, and when the holy month begins with the new moon, the United States should offer some sort of plausible resolution. It should temporarily lay down its arms, make a concerted effort to help refugees, and perhaps even publicly present hard evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt. If the Bush administration wants to make one more concerted try at peace, this is the moment for it.

Such an effort will be fruitless if Mullah Omar really does intend to fight to the last man. But even if the Taliban don’t surprise the United States by turning over Bin Laden—the way my Moroccan kidnapper surprised me with his offer of a rug—at least the United States will make some progress at retaining moderate Muslim support. And that’s probably the best outcome from Ramadan we can hope for.

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