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How Gaza could change Ramadan for CT Muslims

A child holds a Ramadan lantern in Rafah, Gaza as the holy month approaches on March 6, 2024. Israel has waged a deadly military offensive, now in day 152, on the Gaza Strip since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
Abed Rahim Khatib
Anadolu via Getty Images
A child holds a Ramadan lantern in Rafah, Gaza as the holy month approaches on March 6, 2024. Israel has waged a deadly military offensive, now in day 152, on the Gaza Strip since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

The month of fasting, fellowship and prayer observed by Muslims around the world known as Ramadan has begun, and as many as 44,000 Muslim residents of Connecticut will observe the holy month through April 9. As usual, The Islamic Center of Connecticut in Windsor has scheduled extra prayer services to accommodate as many as it can.

“We make arrangements for people that have memorized the Quran to lead those prayers,” said Mobashar Akram, general secretary of the Islamic Center of Connecticut. “We have a collective communal meal, both when we start the fast, and when we end the fast. So as a community, we come together and enjoy the food and also pray and enjoy each other's camaraderie.”

But this year, Akram said the camaraderie of Ramadan will be laden with angst over the war between Israel and Hamas. Israel’s months-old offensive to destroy Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has killed over 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to The Gaza Ministry of Health.

“As Muslims, we believe that the entire Muslim Umma, or the entire Muslim community, is one body,” Akram said. “So if your finger hurts, the entire body is in pain.”

President Joe Biden is among those who have questioned the validity of the Gaza health ministry’s casualty figures because that organization is controlled by Hamas. But the United Nations said the ministry’s casualty numbers have been reliable in past conflicts. Akram said he personally knows many Palestinians in America who have lost loved ones in Gaza.

“What you see on social media, what you see in the news, absolutely does no justice. 30,000 people. It's not a small amount,” Akram said. “Think of it as if every day nonstop, for six months, an airliner with about 200-to-300 people crashed.”

The Israel-Hamas war started soon after last October’s raid on Israel in which approximately 1,200 Israelis died.

“There is not a single Muslim that will justify the killing of any innocent person,” Akram said. “That could be Jew, Christian, or another Muslim.”

Akram said he expects there will be animosity this Ramadan toward Israel in the hearts of many Muslims for what they see as the Israeli military’s extreme and inhumane response to the October Hamas attack. At the same time, he also has heard Muslim community members express animosity toward countries that surround Israel, like Jordan and Egypt, who have refused to allow Palestinians fleeing Gaza to cross their borders.

“The overwhelming majority of the population that I know are extremely agitated,” Akram said. “They're extremely angry with the lack of steps that the government of those countries have taken. And they're not shy about airing their views.”

So how will this troubled time in the Muslim world affect Ramadan 2024?

“I think there's going to be deep reflection. Celebrations are going to be rather subdued,” Akram said. “But at the same time, we are going to be offering extra prayers and opening up our wallets to contribute towards the welfare and rebuilding of Gaza.”

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.