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Fasting through persecution, siege

MUSLIMS around the world are observing Ramadaan, and some are fasting under appalling circumstances

 ramadaan 2


Until recently the population of Xinjiang, the largest of China’s administrative regions, was mostly Uighur. Most Uighurs are Muslim, and Islam is an important part of their life and identity. Chinese authorities have stepped up a crackdown on Uighurs in recent years. Uighur commercial and cultural activities have been strictly curtailed by the Chinese government. There are severe restrictions on Islam, with fewer mosques and strict control over the madrassa (religious school) curriculum. Some Xinjiang government departments have banned Muslim civil servants from fasting during Ramadaan.


The Ogaden region is in eastern Ethiopia, with a mainly Muslim, ethnic Somali population of about 5 million people. In a systematic attempt to ethnically cleanse the area, Ethiopian military and paramilitary forces operating in Ogaden have been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings and gang rapes; falsely arresting and torturing innocent civilians; and looting and destroying villages and crops. According to reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Genocide Watch, the Ethiopian government has “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden population”, constituting “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.


The UN has called the Rohingya Muslims of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar one of the world’s most persecuted peoples. The Myanmar government has labelled them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh – even though the Rohingya presence in Myanmar goes back many generations. Stateless, Rohingya Muslims are denied basic rights such as citizenship, education, freedom of movement, employment, and the right to own property and marry without state permission. They are also subjected to forced sterilisation and forced labour.


During Ramadaan last year, the Israeli military attacked the Gaza Strip – the third major military assault on the area in seven years. Fiftyone days of war resulted in a situation that the UN has described as “unprecedented since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967”. More than 2 200 Palestinians were killed and 11 000 injured. Some 18 000 homes were demolished, leaving 108 000 people homeless. Gaza’s only power plant was destroyed; 30 percent of Gaza’s residents are unable to access water; and half of all agricultural land was severely damaged. It will take more than 20 years and $7.8 billion (R97bn) to rebuild Gaza. Not a single home, hospital or school has been rebuilt, as Israel imposes a complete siege on the tiny coastal strip, refusing to allow essential reconstruction material into Gaza. –

 Written by: Suraya Dadoo

First Appeared: The Star Newspaper (South Africa), 18 June 2015, page 26.

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