Norway: Ramadan begins in the shadow of a massacre
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Last Updated: Monday, August 01, 2011, 20:40
  
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.

PTI


First Published: Monday, August 01, 2011, 20:40


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