Muslims across Europe are marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which falls in August this year. The religious celebrations – during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk – are being promoted by normally secular European multiculturalists who have drawn up guidelines, issued instructions and carved out special privileges to ensure that Muslims are not offended by non-Muslims during the festival.
These are, of course, the same multiculturalists who stood by and watched while Europe's Christmas and New Year holidays in 2010 were overshadowed by widespread Islam-related controversies in nearly every European country including Britain, where a Muslim group launched a nationwide poster campaign denouncing Christmas as evil.
In Britain, Ramadan was ushered in by the London-based Islamist Abu Waleed who said: "We will make [British Prime Minister] David Cameron get on his hands and knees and pay us the Jizya Tax [a tax imposed on non-Muslims, orDhimmis, who live under Muslim rule]; Queen Elizabeth and the 'whore' Kate Middleton will wear the niqab [a Muslim veil that covers the face]."
Also in Britain, the 2012 London Olympics have been plunged into controversy by the discovery that the Games will clash with Ramadan. The clash will put Muslim athletes at a disadvantage as they will be expected to fast from sunrise to sunset for the entire duration of the Games. In 2012, Ramadan will take place from July 21 to August 20, while the Olympics run from July 27 to August 12. About 3,000 Muslim competitors are expected to be affected. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "They would not have organized this at Christmas. It is equally stupid to organize it at Ramadan. It shows a complete lack of awareness and sensitivity."
Prison guards at the HMP Leeds high security prison have been advised to take extra care to avoid offering Muslims ham sandwiches during Ramadan. More than 200 Muslim inmates recently launched a multi-million pound claim for compensation after being offered ham sandwiches during a previous Ramadan.
Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office warned its citizens that chewing gum in Islamic countries during Ramadan may offend Muslims and the British Home Office warned its staff not to eat in front of their fasting Muslim colleagues during August.
France ushered in Ramadan by inaugurating two new mosques, one in Strasbourg where the Muslim population has reached 15%, and another in Villeneuve d'Ascq near the northern city of Lille. According to the Muslim Council of France (CFCM), 150 new mosques are currently being built in towns and cities across the country.
In Norway, the Oslo-based Imam Syed Farasat Ali Bukhari told the Norwegian state television channel NRK that any Muslim not fasting during Ramadan should be beheaded. He made the comments shortly after asking the government for permission to open a private Islamic school for 200 pupils in the Ammerud neighbourhood of Oslo. The government subsequently denied his request.
In Spain, where an estimated 95 percent of the country's 1.5 million Muslims are observing Ramadan this year, hundreds of municipal and provincial governments have issued special instructions to help non-Muslims avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan.
Ignoring the advice, a municipal councillor in the Barcelona suburb of Sant Adrià del Besós was attacked by a Muslim mob on August 7 while trying to photograph an illegal mosque in the town.
Meanwhile, a court in Tarragona on August 2 absolved a local imam who had been sentenced to one year in prison for forcing a 31-year-old Moroccan woman to wear a hijab head covering. The imam had threatened to burn down the woman's house for being an "infidel" because she works outside of the home, drives an automobile and has non-Muslim friends. But the Socialist mayor applied political pressure to get the ruling overturned to prevent "a social conflict."
Also, the Taliban issued a statement saying: "Most Islamic battles, like the conquest of Spain, were fought during Ramadan. So, we can conclude that the month of Ramadan has an astonishing place in the history of Islamic jihad."
In Paris, Interior Minister Claude Guéant ushered in Ramadan by telling Muslims who have been praying in the streets of a Paris neighborhood that they should utilize a disused barracks instead. "Praying in the street is something that is not acceptable," Guéant said, insisting that it is contrary to the French state's secular principles; "It has to stop."
Also in France, the Roman Catholic newspaper La Croix published an Ifop poll showing that the number of Muslims observing Ramadan in France has increased to more than 70 percent.
In Germany, the Central Council of Muslims said Islamic professional football players were not obliged to fast during Ramadan, ahead of the regular season that resumed on August 5. "The professional player can make up the fasting days during periods when there is no match and in that way show his respect for God and the holy month of Ramadan," council president Aiman Mazyek said in a statement.
A dispute over the issue in Germany began when the second-division team FSV Frankfurt gave three Muslim players an official warning in October 2009 for fasting during Ramadan and failing to inform their managers. After much debate, Islamic scholars at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo concluded that an exception to the strict Ramadan fasting rules could be made for professional players so their performance would not be compromised.
Also in Germany, the television channel RTL2 launched a special service for Muslim viewers during Ramadan, letting them know when to begin and end the daily fast. "You can theorize all you like about integration, but we wanted to send a clear signal," said Carsten Molings, chief of marketing at the channel.
In Berlin, Özcan Mutlu, a Turkish member of the Berlin House of Representatives, was charged with assault after allegedly starting a fight after a Turkish sausage seller insulted him for ordering a currywurst during Ramadan.
In Holland, a dentist in The Hague announced he would be opening his clinic in the evenings and nights during Ramadan because Muslim clients "cannot swallow their own saliva from sunrise to sunset." Muslims are not allowed to drink water during the day during Ramadan.
Also in Holland, the Agis health insurance company and the Mediq pharmacy chain are offering special "Ramadanchecks" that offer advice on how to take medicines during the fast month.
In Italy, a parliamentary commission on August 2 approved a draft law banning women from wearing veils that cover their faces in public. The draft would prohibit women from going in public wearing a burqa, niqab or any other garment that covers the face. Women who violate the ban would face fines, while third parties who forced women to cover their faces in public would be fined and face up to 12 months in jail.
Also in Italy, the northern town of Cittadella passed a ban on the sale of "foul-smelling" foreign foods, especially kebabs. Kebabs – a skewered meat dish often served wrapped in bread – originate in the Middle East but have in recent years become increasingly popular in Italy and can be found in cities across Europe. Angry Muslim immigrants say that "to ban kebabs in Cittadella is like forbidding pizza in Paris or New York."
In Sweden, the Social Democrats have called for turning Ramadan into an official Swedish holiday. "Almost all of our public holidays, except for Midsummer and May 1st, have a Christian religious connection. Sweden is today a multicultural society, and it is worth looking at how it can be done," Social Democrat Party secretary Carin Jämtin told the centrist Svenska Dagbladet daily newspaper.
In the meantime, the estimated 500,000 Muslims in Sweden are struggling to address a unique problem as this year Ramadan falls during the long days of summer. For example, in Umeå in northern Sweden, dawn broke at 3.47am on August 1 and the sun set at 9.41pm, requiring an almost 18 hour fast, compared to only 13 hours in Mecca.