The first week of May ushers in the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The month-long fast, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, affects the lives of the overwhelming majority of the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. Observant Muslims do not eat, drink or smoke from sunrise to sunset. Beyond that, it is a month of spirituality, exertion and self-restraint.
Even though the calendar of activity is adjusted to the time practising Muslims abstain from eating and break their fast, it is a month during which work is supposed to continue at all levels.
Regional and international event calendars are punctuated with the social requirements of the month. In today’s interconnected world, the Muslim communities’ Western partners, be they in business or in politics, are showing growing cross-cultural sensitivity.
It is a positive sign that a strategic intelligence firm such as the US-based Stratfor felt the need to draw the attention of its clients in a special report to “Ways Businesses and Travellers Can Prepare for Ramadan 2019″ offering security tips but also advice “to avoid offending local sensibilities during Ramadan.”
Ramadan is a month during which the lives of Muslims are permeated not just by a general atmosphere of religious piety but also with a festive mood of celebration and joy, especially during the evening.
The coexistence of the two trends of worship and joyful celebration is reflective of the fundamental coexistence between the practice of the faith and the celebration of life that has always characterised Islam. Social tolerance has been the rule if not the ideal for the overwhelming majority of Muslims.
Still, in Ramadan and during the rest of the year, there will be always those who try to impose themselves as the guardians of an austere interpretation of the faith. Using religious rites or social charity for political gain is rejected as a transparent and opportunistic form of exploitation of the faith.
Some extremist groups see Ramadan not as a month of serenity and peace but an occasion to commit acts of terrorism against anyone who does not share their creed.
Their misdeeds are anathema to Islam and have nothing to with Ramadan’s spirituality and joy.