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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: What Is Ramadan?

Aired October 24, 2001 - 05:35   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well as the U.S.-led coalition picks up its airstrikes against Taliban forces, two big concerns on the horizon right now are the settling in of winter and the coming of the month of Ramadan, which is a holy month in Islam.

And to talk about that and the implications of actually conducing some combat during that, we're joined from our London bureau this morning by Inayat Bunglawala. He is a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Great Britain. And we thank you very much for your time this morning because we have been drawn toward trying to learn about Islamic as well as Islamic politics, if you will, in the wake of all of this action in Afghanistan.

And so much has been said about by concerns that perhaps fighting during Ramadan would actually cause a major problem amongst the Arab nations who are in the coalition right now and who are at least providing some support. Now to help us try to understand exactly why that is, can you explain first of all what exactly is Ramadan, if you were to explain that to an uninitiate like myself.

INAYAT BUNGLAWALA, SPOKESMAN FOR THE MUSLIM COUNCIL OF GREAT BRITAIN: Sure Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and its main significance for Muslims realizing two areas. Firstly it is the month when Muslims believe God revealed His final revelation to man 1400 years ago to Mohammed during this month Islam --and Islamics believe God revealed His messages to many prophets including the Torah to Moses and the Gospel to Jesus and the Koran is the final revelation according to Islamic belief.

The revelation began during the month of Ramadan. Secondly, Ramadan is the month of fasting for all Muslims all over the world. Throughout this month Muslims from dawn to dust, they abstain from food and drink, and it creates a really enormous feeling of togetherness all over the world during this month.

(CROSSTALK)

BUNGLAWALA: So those are two main significances.

HARRIS: Okay, we understand. Thank you very much for that. Now with that in mind, that is the backdrop here. Now if Muslims abstain from food and from drink during this period, does it mean that they should also be abstaining from fighting or from warring during that time, because that question has not really been settled. As I understand it, there have been instances in history where there has been fighting during Ramadan amongst Muslims and when there has not been fighting. Can you explain that for us?

BUNGLAWALA: Yes. Certainly it's not forbidden to fight during the month of Ramadan. In fact even at the time of the prophet, there were battles during the month of Ramadan. The concerns that have been raised, though, here because Afghanistan is a very, very poor nation. Remember it doesn't have even the basics of a health system, basics of an education system.

But if Muslims see -- already there is, you know, heightened feelings toward Afghans throughout the Muslim world. But to see them being bombed during the month of Ramadan, when we should be helping the poor. We should be helping the needy. Really we're afraid it will inflame passions all over the Muslim world.

HARRIS: You know I heard the same thing three years ago when we were -- when there were strikes underway in Iraq, and we were covering those, and we heard the same questions being raised about the coalition back then striking against Iraq during Ramadan. But yet and still there have not been -- at least I have not been aware of any recriminations amongst the Muslim world, when there have been -- there's been fighting going on, in say, Algeria where there's been a civil war raging for years amongst Muslims there.

Is it a matter of perhaps that Muslims can fight amongst each other, but someone from the outside fighting against them is something that is definitely seen to be, I guess, something to be avoided or something that could actually cause a big problem.

BUNGLAWALA: No. I mean the principle here is the killing of innocents. The killing of innocents should be avoided regardless of which month. But if it occurs during Ramadan, where Muslims -- as I said there is enormous feeling, maybe you can not appreciate the feeling if you're not Muslim. But the feeling is very heightened during this month, and if they see innocents -- we're getting reports now of hospitals, of the Red Cross buildings, homes for the elderly being bombed, which is really you have to expect when the Americans are bombing from such high altitudes and we warned them this would happen, that -- what will be the repercussions.

And we -- if we want -- really want to deal with the issue of terrorism, then we need to remove the breeding ground of terrorism, which lie in injustices around the world. And if we're going to create another injustice in Afghanistan, then I mean you can guess what will happen.

HARRIS: Yes. Let me ask you one final question because it occurred to me as you were speaking here. What if Osama bin Laden's location was identified during Ramadan and a strike was carried out on just taking out him. Would there be recriminations amongst the Muslim world if that were to happen?

BUNGLAWALA: Osama was held in high regard, you must recall, because of his resistance to the Russian invasion. Now if Osama is directly implicated in the horrific events of September the 11th, naturally Muslims will not feel sympathy for what happens to Osama.

But it is important to convince Muslims of Osama's guilt of what happened on September the 11th. You must be aware Muslims still are not clear about the guilt.

For example, during Lockerby, when we suspected the two Libyans of having carried out the Lockerby bombing, we waited 10 years, but we did wait and we brought them to trial and we established their guilt, and now one of them is in prison. It is important to follow a legal procedure here.

HARRIS: Inayat Bunglawala, thank you very much for your insight this morning and we appreciate the education. And I hope to be talking about this much more in the future. Take care.

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