Norway: Ramadan begins in the shadow of a massacre

Norway is home to some 100,000 Muslims out of a total population of nearly five million people.

Oslo: Norway`s Muslims, reviled by the
far-right extremist behind the twin attacks of July 22, began
an emotional Ramadan today amid more funerals and ceremonies
commemorating the 77 people killed.

The Muslim fasting month "will be filled with emotions
and in honour of the the victims and their families," said
Methab Asfar, who heads the Islamic Council, an umbrella
organisation for Muslim groups across Norway.

As in most other countries, Norway`s Muslims began
fasting today, just 10 days after 32-year-old Anders Behring
Breivik carried out his deadly attacks in what he described as
a battle against a "Muslim invasion" of Europe.

Targeting the ruling Labour Party, which he blamed for
its multicultural policies, he first set off a car bomb in
Oslo`s government quarter before going on a shooting rampage
on the Utoeya island near Oslo, where the party was holding a
youth camp.

"Of course the attacks will leave a mark on Ramadan.

Everyone has this in mind and we are especially mindful of the
victims` loved ones," Asfar told AFP in a telephone interview.

According to official statistics, Norway is home to
some 100,000 Muslims out of a total population of nearly five
million people.

Several Muslims figured among the 69 people, most of
them teenagers, killed in Behring Breivik`s shooting rampage
on Utoeya.

Today afternoon in the central-western town of
Trondheim, a massive funeral was scheduled for one of them, a
17-year-old girl of Turkish origin named Gizem Dogan, with
thousands of people, including Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu, expected to attend.

Her funeral will consist of two ceremonies, one Muslim
and one Protestant.

"In one way, it is an entire nation that will be
fasting," Asfar said.

"The aim of the fast is to keep in mind those who are
in difficulty. It`s a time for forgiveness, for reflections,
for love and warmth. Muslim or not, our thoughts will be with
the victims and their families," he said.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, devout Muslims must
abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn until sunset when
they break the fast with the Iftar meal.

The fast is one of the five pillars of Islam, along
with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which able Muslims should
do once in a lifetime.


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