Holy fast begins without Ramadan Festival

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For the first time in six years, the beginning of the Muslim holy month of fasting is not being marked in the Netherlands with a Ramadan Festival.

The event was initially organised in response to the murder of Dutch film director and author Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in 2004. The organisers said the aim of the festival was to counter stereotypes about Muslims and help combat fears among Muslims themselves. The organisation says it has suspended the event while it embarks on a period of reflection.

The Union of Moroccan Mosques this year wants to focus on the famine in the Horn of Africa. “If you can’t contribute money, please contribute with a prayer”, says the group’s president, Khalil Aitblal.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Nor are they permitted to smoke, make love or curse then.

According to different official government figures, Muslims represent between five and six percent of the Dutch population, though not all of them are equally observant.

In France, an estimated 71 percent of Muslims say they will observe Ramadan this year. In 1989, when a poll was first conducted on this matter, the figure stood at 61 percent. France has around 3.5 million Muslims, making it the largest Islamic community in the European Union.

The end of Ramadan, which this year lasts until 30 August, is marked by the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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