‘Peace: That’s what we hope for’

Muslims reflect in Ramadan as winds of freedom blow across the Middle East

Layla Baobaid

Layla Baobaid

In the Middle East, things are changing. Beginning in Tunisia last December, “the Arab Spring” – a wave of protests and uprisings – has now swept through Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Oman, Jordan and Iraq. Libya, embroiled for months in civil war, appears to have finally ousted Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

Amid the conflict, Canadian Muslims, especially those with family in the region, have been praying for peace.

Those prayers grew louder at the start of Ramadan and, perhaps, many wish they will be answered as Eid nears.

“We believe God is listening more closely at Ramadan,” says Mostafa Mohamned, who moved to Canada from Cairo, Egypt 19 years ago and now lives in Maple Ridge.

“We pray that things will get better. I don’t think it can get any worse than what it was.”

Mohamned’s sister and brother still live in the city where he grew up. Cairo, the capital, remained under siege for months as Egyptians rose up to end President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.

Mohamned’s nephews joined the crowds in Tahrir Square and as mobs clashed on the streets, security forces arrested his brother.

“They came and took him from the house,” says Mohamned, relieved that his brother has since been freed and Mubarak is now on trial.

Mohamned left his home  in the 1980s after he was blacklisted by Mubarak’s regime.

“Whoever spoke out was blacklisted,” he explains.

“I was on a black list so many years ago, so they picked who is next in the family.

That’s how [the arrest] happened.”

Eid falls on Aug. 31, today, and marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of abstinence for Muslims.

Ramadan is a time for spiritual purification achieved through fasting, self-sacrifice and prayers, similar to the Christian tradition of Lent that precedes Easter.

Eid-al-Fitr, which literally means the feast of fast breaking, is a time to give charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends. It is also a time for truces, when warring nations and tribes have traditionally laid down arms, delivering a month of peace.

“People try to get together and worship and do good things and not immerse themselves in politics,” says Wajeih Baobaid, a Pitt Meadows resident whose brother still lives in Yemen.

“This year is different.”

Like Mohamned and others who are part of the Ridge Meadows Islamic Society, Baobaid, too, has been asking for change.

“Many of the regimes have been in power for 20, 30 and 40 years.

They held the countries and regions back. Having that change will hopefully open up that region and allow it to catch up with what’s happening globally,” he says.

“Islam means peace. That’s what we hope for.”


Wish Eid Mubarak

• Wish Eid Mubarak to Muslims who live in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge at the Maple Ridge library on Saturday, Sept 10. from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Learn about another culture, see calligraphy demonstrations, sample delicious food and hear a brief introduction to Islam. The event is free, but participants are encouraged to bring a donations for the Friends In Need Food Bank. • For more information, call the Maple library at 604-467-7417.