Will attacks end before Ramadan?

by Valerie Silverman | 11/1/01 6:00am

When President Bush launched the key, unifying phrase, "Infinite Justice," to represent America's goals in the 'War on Terrorism', he unwittingly insulted many Muslims. Infinite justice, from the perspective of the Islamic faith, can only be established by God.

"If you want to offend Muslims, act like God," said Amin Plaisted, advisor to Al-Nur, the Muslim Student Association.

While Bush's current bombing campaign enjoys widespread support at home, it has strained America's relations with many Islamic nations. And, with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching in a little over two weeks, the risk of further offending Muslims is weighing heavily on the government.

Many of the campus Muslims leaders contacted by The Dartmouth said they hoped the bombing campaign would stop before the start of the holy month.

"Ramadan is supposed to be the holiest month of the Muslim lunar calendar; one of the reasons was that the Koran was revealed in the month of Ramadan," Yousuf Haque '02, president of Al-Nur, said.

Ramadan is a unifying religious tenet of Islam, in that most Muslims adhere to the rules of fasting during daylight and abstain from unholy activities like smoking and sexual intercourse.

Muslims "give up anything you might indulge in. You can't gossip, much less bomb Red Cross centers," Mohamad Bydon '02, said, explaining the significance of the month.

There is little suggestion so far, however, that the U.S. attacks will cease. While the British defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, recently announced that a pause was seriously being considered, the complete cessation of bombing during Ramadan appears improbable, according to a report by the BBC.

With the United States' efforts to form an international coalition and establish the unified goal of all nations to combat terrorism, continued offenses during Ramadan could pose serious threats to the developing alliance, according to many people contacted by The Dartmouth.

"The U.S. has been trying to maintain a coalition and to keep it stable. They will find, ultimately, that bombing during Ramadan will be more harmful than helpful," Imran Sharih '04 said.

In the weeks since the September attacks, Bush has repeatedly tried to stress that the current campaign is not a war against Muslims, instead one against terrorism.

In light of the recent operations, though, "we've done such a bad job of making that point that no one in Arab countries particularly takes it seriously," Kevin Reinhart, professor of religion and an expert on Islam, said.

Many military experts, however, argue that a halt to bombing during Ramadan could harm military strategy -- giving an opportunity to the al-Qaida and Taliban regimes to regroup their forces.

Muslim students, however, warned of the negative repercussions of an ongoing campaign.

"The U.S. has done such a good job of keeping this a war against terrorism, that by bombing during Ramadan, they risk allowing their enemies to use the rhetoric of religion under attack to bolster al-Qaida's cause and their own agenda," Shariah stressed. "Radicals will be able to use this as fuel to the fire," he added.

Many contacted by The Dartmouth also pointed to a significant humanitarian aspect that has also emerged which has questioned the advantages of continued attacks. "I don't think you can put politics in the realm of compassion and respect for other people," Haque said.

Ramadan begins around Nov. 17 this year based on the first siting of the new moon.

"I think the U.S. should work with Muslim scholars -- there are plenty here -- to make the clearest case about whatever they decide to do," said Plaisted. And whatever that decision may be, there will still be turmoil and conflict.

Despite its unlikelihood, some still held out hope that the campaign would end soon. "It is not necessary to conduct war this way. The U.S. is reacting to this like it's another Persian Gulf War, and it's not. We need wisdom, not power," said Bydon.