Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What did Israel gain by appearing to "go crazy" in Gaza?

A MUST read by Noam Chomsky

The checkpoints have no relation to security of Israel, and if some are intended to safeguard settlers, they are flatly illegal, as the World Court ruled. In reality, their major goal is harass the Palestinian population and to fortify what Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper calls the "matrix of control," designed to make life unbearable for the "two-legged beasts" who will be like "drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle" if they seek to remain in their homes and land. All of that is fair enough, because they are "like grasshoppers compared to us" so that their heads can be "smashed against the boulders and walls." The terminology is from the highest Israeli political and military leaders, in this case the revered "princes." And the attitudes shape policies.

The ravings of the political and military leaders are mild as compared to the preaching of rabbinical authorities. They are not marginal figures. On the contrary, they are highly influential in the army and in the settler movement, who Zertal and Eldar reveal to be "lords of the land," with enormous impact on policy. Soldiers fighting in northern Gaza were afforded an "inspirational" visit from two leading rabbis, who explained to them that there are no "innocents" in Gaza, so everyone there is a legitimate target, quoting a famous passage from Psalms calling on the Lord to seize the infants of Israel's oppressors and dash them against the rocks. The rabbis were breaking no new ground. A year earlier, the former chief Sephardic rabbi wrote to Prime Minister Olmert, informing him that all civilians in Gaza are collectively guilty for rocket attacks, so that there is "absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings," as the Jerusalem Post reported his ruling. His son, chief rabbi of Safed, elaborated: "If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Who are the Rohingyas?

(Reuters)
The Rohingyas are Muslims from Myanmar. Many have fled the Buddhist-dominated, army-ruled country to escape repression and economic hardship,
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Rights groups say hundreds of Rohingyas were recently detained on a remote Thai island before being forced back to sea by the security forces with little food or water.

About 28,000 Rohingyas recognised as refugees are living in UNHCR camps in Bangladesh, many have been there since 1992 after fleeing persecution in their home country. A further 200,000 are unregistered, giving them uncertain legal status.
Frustration and desperation has prompted many Rohingyas to risk their lives in small boats sailing for Thailand and Malaysia , according to the UNHCR.

Imam Husen, one of the boat people who landed in Indonesia, told Reuters from his hospital bed in Aceh earlier on that he and about 580 other people had set off from Mundu, in Myanmar, in four boats on Dec. 9 since they wanted to flee the country.
He said that some members of the group had been beaten after landing in Thailand and then towed out to sea two days later and set adrift.
A non-government organisation dedicated to the plight of the Rohingya said Thai security forces detained around 1,000 Rohingyas on a remote tropical island in the Andaman Sea, after intercepting them in Thai waters.
They were kept under armed guard, given very little food and reported being kicked and beaten with sticks, the Arakan project said.
Then, in two separate incidents around Dec. 18 and Dec. 30, the military forced 992 Rohingyas onto boats without engines before towing them far out to sea and abandoning them, it said. Of the 992, 550 are missing and feared drowned, it added.


also read a recent article in TIME

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Did You Wake Up for Your Children in Gaza?

from a khutbah at Muslim Matters

We are all aware of the emphasis on brotherhood and unity in Islam. When you take a closer look at the Verses and Ahadith on the subject, there is an interesting point. Unity, brotherhood, and our compassion for our fellow Muslims are correlated to our Iman.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “None of you truly believes till he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.”
“The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe.”
“He is not a believer, who goes to bed full, knowing that his neighbor is hungry.”
My treatment of others is a reflection of my Iman. My distress at the suffering of Muslims is an indication of the condition of my Iman. This is critical for us to understand not only in terms of our collective efforts to unify the Ummah, but also in our individual efforts to please Allah.
Now with more than 900 Muslims dead, almost 300 of them children and 100 women and over 4000 people injured, the question we all have to ask ourselves is:
What did I do about this and how did this impact me?


The importance and effectiveness of making Dua and asking Allah for his help is also known to everyone, and has been mentioned in other articles here. Have we taken full advantage of this powerful tool? I’ll go back to the original premise, if my own brother was sick or the lives of my own children were in danger, I would be up all night praying and crying before Allah, asking for his help and mercy. But how many times since this tragedy started did I wake up in the night and make Dua and beg Allah to shower his help and mercy upon the innocent people suffering?
So let’s start taking action for their sake and ours

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What kind of sick people find war a spectator sport?

Israelis Watch the Fighting in Gaza From a Hilly Vantage Point
GAZA BORDER -- Moti Danino sat Monday in a canvas lawn chair on a sandy hilltop on Gaza's border, peering through a pair of binoculars at distant plumes of smoke rising from the besieged territory.
An unemployed factory worker, he comes here each morning to watch Israel's assault on Hamas from what has become the war's peanut gallery -- a string of dusty hilltops close to the border that offer panoramic views across northern Gaza.
He is one of dozens of Israelis who have arrived from all over Israel, some with sack lunches and portable radios tuned to the latest reports of the battle raging in front of them. Some, like Mr. Danino, are here to egg on friends and family members in the fight.
Moti Denino and other residents of Sderot in Israel call themselves the "hill people", watching attacks unfold between Israel and Gaza from a hillside. Others have made the trek, they say, to witness firsthand a military operation -- so far, widely popular inside Israel -- against Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.
Over the weekend, four teenagers sat on a hill near Mr. Danino's, oohing and aahing at the airstrikes. Nadav Zebari, who studies Torah in Jerusalem, was eating a cheese sandwich and sipping a Diet Coke.
"I've never watched a war before," he said. A group of police officers nearby took turns snapping pictures of one another with smoking Gaza as a backdrop. "I want to feel a part of the war," one said, before correcting himself with the official government designation for the assault. "I mean operation. It's not a war."
The spectators share hilltop space with an army of camera-toting Israeli and foreign journalists, who have so far been banned by the Israeli military from entering Gaza to report on the conflict.
Mr. Danino has a personal link to the fighting. His 20-year-old son, Moshe, is a soldier in an infantry unit fighting somewhere below his hilly perch. From the sidelines, he is here to root for his son the soldier, he says, just as he once sat on the sidelines of soccer fields cheering for his son the high-school athlete.
"The army took all the soldiers' cellphones away before the attack, so this is my way of staying in contact," he says.

On another hilltop overlooking Gaza, Sandra Koubi, a 43-year-old philosophy student, says seeing the violence up close "is a kind of catharsis for me, to get rid of all the anxiety we have inside us after years of rocket fire" from Hamas.
Jocelyn Znaty, a stout 60-year-old nurse for Magen David Adom, the Israeli counterpart of the Red Cross, can hardly contain her glee at the site of exploding mortars below in Gaza.
"Look at that," she shouts, clapping her hands as four artillery rounds pound the territory in quick succession. "Bravo! Bravo!"

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Why Do So Few Speak Up for Gaza?

By Robert Scheer
Why are we so indifferent to the death and destruction in Gaza?
The major news outlets meekly accepted Israel’s banning of journalists from entering Gaza as an excuse for downplaying collateral civilian casualties, our president-elect, Barack Obama, has had little to say about an invasion that will much complicate his future Mideast peace efforts, and most commentators easily rationalize Israel’s many-more-eyes-for-an-eye killings.
Why is it that there is such widespread acceptance, beginning with the apologetic arguments of President Bush, that whatever Israel does is always justified as necessary to the survival of the Jewish state?
It is not.
While the Hamas rocket attacks are reprehensible, they are also an ineffectual challenge to Israel’s enormous security apparatus, and the severity of Israel’s response to them is counterproductive. Clearly, the very existence of Israel is not now, nor has it ever been, seriously challenged by anything the Palestinians did. Not back in 1948, when Israel was established as a state with insignificant Palestinian military resistance, nor at the time of the 1967 Six-Day War when Egypt, Syria and Jordan fought Israel.
The Palestinians were in no position to confront the Israeli army, because those whose lands were not already occupied by Israel were living under oppressive Egyptian control in Gaza and tough Jordanian rule in the West Bank. After the speedy Israeli victory, which demolished the myth of the new state’s vulnerability, the Palestinians became imprisoned as a people by Israel for crimes they had not committed.
Even if we accept the harshest portrayal of the tactics and motives of the Palestinian movements against Israel after the Six-Day War, at what point did that terrorism represent a serious challenge to the survival of the Jewish people or the state that claims to speak in their name? Yet that survival is invoked to justify the vastly excessive use of force by the Israeli war machine, with frequent allusions to the Holocaust previously visited upon the Jewish people, a holocaust that had nothing to do with Palestinians or Muslims, and everything to do with Central Europeans claiming to be Christians.
The high moral claim of the Israeli occupation rests not on the objective reality of a Palestinian threat to Israel’s survival, but rather on the non sequitur cry that “never again” should harm come to Jews as it did in Central Europe seven decades ago.


Read the complete article here

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why do they hate the West, will we (still) ask?

By Robert Fisk

So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?
Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?
What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands. Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.
What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I'm afraid, it was. After covering so many mass murders by the armies of the Middle East – by Syrian troops, by Iraqi troops, by Iranian troops, by Israeli troops – I suppose cynicism should be my reaction. But Israel claims it is fighting our war against "international terror". The Israelis claim they are fighting in Gaza for us, for our Western ideals, for our security, for our safety, by our standards. And so we are also complicit in the savagery now being visited upon Gaza.
...And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.
Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.

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Do something. Do MORE.

Pass it on, send it around, shout it out. Anything. DO SOMETHING! DO MORE!
-- text message from Mads Gilbert, one of two Norwegian doctors toiling relentlessly alongside exhausted Palestinian medics in Gaza

Action Gaza>What you can do (comprehensive suggestions) at Muslim Matters

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza.







Click here to view Palestine Aid Distribution Slideshow


Click here to read about Islamic Relief's efforts in its continued aid to GazaCurrent Crisis
• "The situation is absolutely disastrous." - United Nations official (CNN)
• First day of the Gaza crisis was the bloodiest in over 40 years (BBC)
• Over 310 killed and 1,400 injured in first two days alone
• Hospitals not able to cope with the injuries; desperate for supplies
• Severe shortage of food, fuel and other staple needs; majority of families rely on candles for lighting due to power blackout
• Aid groups say current humanitarian situation in Gaza the worst in 30 years (CNN)
• "The children are terrified. Adults are unable to provide them with security or warmth. Hospitals are stretched out of the limits. We need blood and medicine and surgical equipment." -Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, Head of Gaza's Mental Health Program




Updates and links: MuslimMatters

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Muslims and Halloween...what's the deal?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Where can I get hold of an Eid primer?

from suhaibwebb.com:
For many of us, the ‘Eid prayer is a simple ritual that we observe twice a year. However, if one recently accepted Islam, or is dealing with the responsibility of his first ‘Eid khutbah, the ‘Eid prayer begins to seem as something truly daunting. With that in mind, I decided to compile a simple primer on the ‘Eid prayer. I hope this facilitates its observance, makes it easy for converts, their families, ones co-workers and first time preachers.
This has to be hands down, the most unusual and enjoyable Eid article by a scholar: Eid Greetings:Hugathon or Kissathon? by Yaser Birjas

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Friday, September 12, 2008

What kind of people would deny Muslim meatpackers food break at sunset in Ramadan?

DENVER (Reuters) - Meat processor JBS Swift & Co. has fired 130 Muslim workers after they refused to return to work in a dispute with the company over Ramadan fasting and meal breaks, company and union officials said on Thursday.

Manny Gonzales, spokesman for the United Food Workers Commercial Workers Local 7, said the employees were "unjustly terminated" from the meatpacker's plant in Greeley, Colorado, about 60 miles northeast of Denver.

"They (the workers) were not given adequate notice that they would be let go," Gonzales said. "We will file grievances for those who want their jobs back.

Swift, owned by Brazilian meat company JBS, the world's largest beef producer, had another dispute with Muslim workers last year at the company's Grand Island, Nebraska, plant. Several workers were fired after leaving their jobs to pray at sunset.

In announcing the firings, Swift spokeswoman Tamara Smid said the company adjusted its meal breaks to help workers concerned about observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Those dismissed, she said, lost their jobs for violating a collective bargaining agreement, not because of their faith.

"JBS is grateful to employ a multicultural work force and works closely with all employees and their union representation to accommodate religious practices in a reasonable, safe and fair manner to all involved," she said.

The dispute began when 220 Muslim workers -- mostly immigrants of Somalia and other East African nations -- walked off the job this week after supervisors denied them a food break at sunset.

During Ramadan, devout Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The workers were suspended for an "unauthorized work stoppage" and were told to return to the job or be fired, Smid said.

Despite the failure of negotiations between management and the union to resolve the dispute, some of the employees returned to work, but the 130 who did not were terminated.

Many of the African immigrants were hired at the plant after a 2006 raid by U.S. immigration authorities resulted in the detention of 1,300 Swift workers in six states. Most of those workers were Hispanics whom the government said were in the United States illegally.

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What's cooking in Asian kitchens?

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Aromatic beef porridge. Spicy snails. Rich mutton and wheat stew. Sweet vermicelli milk pudding, and lots and lots of dates. Ramadan may be a month of fasting, but for many Asian Muslims it's a gastronomical feast.

Food is as much a part of Ramadan, the holy month which began last week, as religious fervor, with Muslims devoting many hours to cooking the perfect meal to break the dawn-to-dusk fast.

The month is also a time for charity, with many mosques and

wealthier Muslims donating or cooking food for the poor.

"Ramadan is a big celebration for us in Asia, with a lot of special foods," said Ichwan Syam, secretary-general of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the leading Islamic legislative body in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

"Food is almost symbolic. It helps the poor, reminds Muslims of their social responsibility. It brings families together and it also brings joy after a day of fasting," he told Reuters.

During Ramadan, devout Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual activities during daylight. A hadith, or saying, attributed to Prophet Muhammad tells Muslims they experience two joys: when they break their fast and when they meet Allah.

In a tradition harking back to Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, many Muslims initially break their fast with dates. The fruit, usually dried, is used in cakes, stews and sweets.

In Indonesia, no Ramadan would be complete without kolak, a refreshing dish made from coconut milk, starch, sugar and fruits which is eaten as an appetizer at the fast-breaking meal.

Kraca, a modest version of the French escargot, is also a favorite starter. It is made from fresh paddy-field snails, washed and shells pierced, that are boiled with lemongrass, spices and best enjoyed by sucking the fiery liquid and picking out the flesh with a stick.

To finish off the meal, most Indonesians eat timun suri, a tropical, pale yellow fruit shaped like a papaya but with white juicy flesh, which is chopped and tossed with a milky syrup and topped with shaved ice.

SPICY, SWEET AND SOUR

In mainly Muslim Malaysia, Ramadan means bubur lambuk, a special rice porridge cooked and distributed for free by the centrally located Kampung Baru mosque, one of Kuala Lumpur's most famous, for more than 50 years.

Every day, hundreds of Muslims queue for hours to get a taste of the famed porridge, which was originally made by one of the mosque's former imams.

"It's really nice, I can't wait for Ramadan to taste the porridge," said office worker Fareedah Hussein.

The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret but ingredients include coconut milk, beef, dried shrimps, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, Chinese celery, onions and fried shallots.

India's Muslims also enjoy similarly rich fare, including haleem, the months' most popular dish which hails from the south. Made from mutton or chicken or a combination of the two, the meats are stewed with spices, wheat and lentils until tender.

The dish is so popular that restaurants in big cities such as Mumbai and Chennai bring in chefs from Hyderabad to cook it. Mosques also provide a meat and rice porridge to the poor, which is usually funded by wealthy Muslims.

Sevian, made from vermicelli boiled in milk with almonds, pistachios, dried dates, saffron, ghee and sugar, is also cooked in large vats during Ramadan and eaten hot or cold.

"The season is unthinkable without the vermicelli preparation," said Pallav Singhal, executive sous-chef at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai.

According to Islam, fasting during Ramadan is meant to purify the soul and unify Muslims.

Although the month's feasting often borders on gluttony with people stuffing themselves, clerics say Ramadan meals are also good for the spirit as many people donate food to the poor and sit down for meals with family and friends.

"Hardly any one goes hungry during Ramadan," said Indonesian cleric Syam.

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Where do Muslims in Paris break their fasts?

PARIS (Reuters) - It's sunset in the French capital, and hundreds of hungry people are poised to begin their meals at the sounding of a Muslim call to prayer.

Elsewhere in the world, the call rings forth from the minarets of mosques, but inside a tent in a gritty part of north Paris, it comes from a tinny radio speaker.

For the holy month of Ramadan, a soup kitchen has opened outside Cite Edmond Michelet, a tough public housing project in Paris' notorious 19th arrondissement. On the menu is a traditional dinner, starting with yoghurt and dates.

"A lot of people can't make ends meet nowadays, but they'd never tell you," said Ali Hasni, 45, a volunteer for the non-profit group "Une Chorba Pour Tous" (Soup for Everyone).

France is home to Europe's largest Muslim minority and debate about the integration of these 5 million people into an avowedly secular society is a recurring theme in a political arena where only a handful of Muslims hold government posts.

The tower blocks surrounding the tent are a common sight in the French urban landscape.

Often run down, the forbidding high-rises are home to many Muslim immigrants who came here to work in the construction boom of the 1960s and 70s, as well as immigrants from other faiths.

Many tower blocks were on the frontline in 2005 when mainly immigrant youths rioted across France after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted in a power sub-station after a run-in with police. Violence has flared sporadically in many such neighborhoods since then.

The 19th arrondissement tops Paris' violent crime statistics, and unemployment is rife. But the soup kitchen's organizers are unfazed by its reputation.

"We adapt to wherever the mayor lets us set up shop, tough neighborhood or not. But we'd really like a more permanent address since demand rises every year," said Farid Adjadj, a 34-year-old postal worker who's been a volunteer since 1994.

While fights between groups of Arab Muslims and young Orthodox Jews make the local papers in the 19th every few months, some residents say tensions are under control.

"This is one of the most populous parts of Paris, and we get along very well -- I just wish that were the same in the Middle East," said David Siksik, a Jewish volunteer.

BIG TOP

The tent, known as "the big top", stretches across several basketball courts. Most of those shuffling in are men on their own. Many speak in Arabic as they settle in at long tables set with plastic tableware.

The main dish is a spicy stew that is eaten -- in dozens of variations -- across North Africa, the Middle East, Southern Europe, Turkey and India. Here it's called "chorba" -- a French transliteration of the Arabic word for soup.

Une Chorba Pour Tous, which mostly targets poor Muslims, has been operating since 1992. Its 150,000 euro ($212,000) annual budget from private donations and public grants allows it to provide some 700 meals a day year-round.

But it is busiest at Ramadan when it serves an average of 2,000 meals per night. Charity is a religious duty in Islam.

"Charity is all the more important during Ramadan, and most of our volunteers are Muslim. But we don't exclude anyone who needs help or wants to help," said Fanny Ait-Kaci, 56, one of the group's founding members.

RICH COUNTRY

Food prices in France rose by 6.4 percent annually in July -- although overall consumer inflation eased 0.3 percent from the previous month -- and charities say many, especially the poorest, have been struggling to make ends meet.

Soup kitchen volunteers say most people who come to the tent are not homeless, but poor immigrant workers or solitary unemployed who, above all, miss living in a community.

"Many people come but wouldn't want their families to know they're here, especially since they might think they're living the high life in a rich country," Hasni said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has angered many immigrant groups by cracking down on illegal immigration, but he has also championed labor reform as a way to fight poverty.

Unemployment has fallen almost a full point since he took office last year, but has since leveled off at 7.6 percent.

France does not keep official statistics on religion or ethnic background, so it's hard to see who is most affected by joblessness.

In the meantime, the soup tent fills.

"I live in a hotel and can't cook, so I came here -- if it weren't for this association I wouldn't be able to break the fast properly," said Karim, 32, an unemployed waiter who declined to give his last name.

"There's no real Ramadan spirit in my neighborhood in (more upscale) western Paris, but here, there's all we need," said Salima Hajjaj, a hairdresser who had come with her unemployed husband and three children.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Why do Muslims fast in Ramadan?

Check out this book on Ramadan and fasting: Essentials of Ramadan, The Fasting Month by Tajuddin B. Shu`aib

for a shorter answer, look at old favourite: Ramadhan, what the heck is that?

hope everyone has a blessed Ramadhan!

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