Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramadan War 2012: Friday or Saturday Start (Somewhat) Based on Geopolitics

Earlier I wrote about the debate between localists, Mecca-centric advocates, and scientific advocates over the exact start time of Ramadan.  The battle of Ramadan's start time has now developed an "when does Easter start" geopolitical aspect with Syria's Muslim establishment declaring Ramadan starts on Saturday but the rebel Syrian National Committee stating it starts on Friday. 

Foreign Policy has this blurb:
"The Syrian National Council announces ... Friday is the first day of Ramadan, unlike what was declared by the regime," read a statement released by the umbrella opposition group. President Bashar al-Assad's government, meanwhile, declared the holy month would begin on Saturday.

There's a regional political dimension at play here: Most of the Arab world's Sunni states -- such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan -- have announced that Ramadan begins on Friday. These countries have been largely supportive of Syria's rebels. Meanwhile, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon's Shiite community -- whose political leaders have supported to the Assad regime -- are starting Ramadan on Saturday.

Just another example of how what seems to be a purely theological dispute quickly becomes politicized amidst Syria's bloody sectarian conflict.

The argument is not solely geopolitical though.  Sunni Pakistan, which is notorious for overlooking Sunni militants slaughtering its Shia population, has declared Ramadan starts on Saturday.  Meanwhile Sunni Indonesia has said Saturday is the start of Ramadan but the main opposition is treating Friday as the start.

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