The United States National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice confirmed on November 1st that there will be no pause in the air raids on Afghanistan during Ramadan, which starts on November 17th.
Condoleeza Rice made the White House position clear: “We must continue the military operation. We have no other choice, we cannot allow ourselves to make a pause”.
These declarations come at a particularly sensitive moment. Tens of thousands of armed Pashtun sympathisers of the Taleban are massing daily on the Pakistan border. The Taleban are turning them back, declaring that they do not need their support. It is believed that more experienced and trained Chechen, Bosnian, Albanian and Mujaheddin from Pakistan and Arab countries are pouring into Afghanistan, although such reports are impossible to confirm.
The Taleban claim that while there are only air strikes, they do not need any support because they disperse before the raids and regroup after they have finished.
On the political front, Presidents Mubarak of Egypt, Sukarnoputri of Indonesia and Musharraf of Pakistan have asked the US/UK alliance to be as brief as possible in the air campaign, fearing growing unrest within their (Moslem) countries.
Ramadan (pronounced RA-ma-don) is the Islamic holy month of fasting and religious introspection, a purification process, a time of prayer and reflection. Moslems refrain from physical pleasures during daylight hours and socialise in Ramadan feasts at night.
The five pillars of Islam are Ramadan, the Declaration of Faith, Daily Prayers, Charity and the Haj, the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, which must be performed at least once.
In this month of purity and spirituality, the sense of self-restraint is coupled with respect for others. Non-Moslems are expected to show respect by allowing Moslems to practice their faith.
Ramadan has a mobile date because it is based on the 354-day Islamic lunar calendar year. It has been celebrated uninterruptedly for 1,477 years, since the first Ramadan in 624 AD
The appropriate greeting to Moslems in Ramadan is the words “Eid Mubarak”. It is feared by many in the Moslem world that carpet-bombing, attacks with cluster bombs and strafing of civilian areas by C-130 Spectre aircraft will not be the most subtle of policies to adopt at such a time, especially if there are more cases of collateral damage.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL