Every culture has its periods of emphasis on one thing or another, especially those having to do with religion. There are no month-long observances in this country, although there are seasonal time-blocks devoted to getting ready for specific observances. Currently, the country is already beset by planning and buying related to Christmas, still two months away. For a few days, Thanksgiving will be front and center next month as families and other groups have reunions and express appreciation to God for their blessings.
Perhaps the nearest thing in this country to an extended time-frame devoted to a specific religious observance is that of the Lenten season, lasting 40 days and leading up to “Holy Week,” including “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday” and “Easter,” the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. There’s no intensive change from the routine during this time, though some celebrants forego the use or practice of something considered to be either of great value or great pleasure. Actually, many jokes are made regarding the practice, since the notion of sacrifice is not all that popular. In any case, this season is one of solemnity and personal/institutional emulation of Christ’s care and love for others.
Not so everywhere. Muslims finished their month-long observance of Ramadan on 21 October. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran “was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation.” It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation.
During Ramadan, Muslims, in fasting throughout the day and taking body-nourishment only at night deny themselves for high-flown purposes, and there can be no doubt that millions of them take the observance quite seriously. They celebrate the end of the season with a sort of holiday and then return to the usual routine.
In Iraq, Muslims celebrated this Ramadan by the wholesale killing of each other and anyone else available, giving the lie to the meaning of the observance, turning it into a bloodletting of immense proportions – hundreds of people slaughtered simply because they were in the wrong place at the right time or vice versa, depending on the viewpoint. In October to date, they have also killed between 70 and 80 American GIs, who thought they were liberating a people who would care for each other, set up a government, and generally institute a society that would be the antithesis of what they endured under Saddam.
Instead of taking advantage of the liberation to do good, terrorists (all Muslims of one stripe or another) have planted bombs on bicycles in order to kill their own people in the marketplace; planted huge bombs in cars in order to blow up police stations and kill Iraqi policemen by the score; shot or mortared anyone thought to be a peacemaker of some sort. In short, Muslims have wreaked havoc upon Muslims – in the name of Allah (God) – at the very time when they should have been discovering ways to get along with each other…in order to follow what the imams say is the Muslim way, that of doing good.
Ramadan has been a time when it seems that some Muslims are even more obliged and gratified to kill other Muslims than they are to kill Americans. Saddam, at least, was not all that religious. He killed for very personal reasons, i.e., to control the populace and fill up many banks with money in his name – manifold hundreds of millions, much of which was spent to build those 40 palatial residences scattered throughout the country. He feigned obeisance to the alleged peace-emphasizing Quran when it suited his purposes…or did he?
Suppose the Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, and Jews all decided to break out their M-16s during Lent the next time around, put together some “dirty bombs,” and celebrate the “peace that passeth all understanding” for 40 days and nights by annihilating each other in the public square, in churches and synagogues, on school playgrounds, etc. That, apparently, would be the Osama/Zawahiri/Saddam observance of Lent. God help us.