Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Top clerics name start dates for Ramadan

(AFP) - Iraq's minority Sunni Arab community will begin observing Ramadan -- Islam's holiest period -- from Thursday, followed a day later by the majority Shiites, top clerics said. Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafur al-Sammaraie, the head of Sunni religious endowment in Iraq, said the Sunni Arabs in the war-ravaged country would observe Ramadan from Thursday. "The legal committee for observing the crescent has decided that Thursday is the first day of Ramadan," Sammaraie said in a statement.
Iraq's Shiites, who are a minority in the Muslim world but make up the majority in Iraq, will observe the holy period from Friday, according to the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the seniormost Shiite cleric. "The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani expects that the crescent will be observed late Thursday and Friday will be the first day of Ramadan," a statement from Sistani's office said.
Baghdadis were out on the streets in numbers on Wednesday, purchasing sweets, pastries, and other food and household items for Ramadan. During the dawn-to-dusk fasting month, the nightly curfew will be eased in the capital, coming into effect at midnight instead of at 11:00 pm. It will continue to be enforced until 5:00 am. Authorities have also scrapped the weekly vehicle curfew that usually applies between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm on Fridays, for the duration of the fasting month.
However, vehicles will not be allowed over the many bridges that span the Tigris River and link east and west Baghdad on the Muslim day of prayer and rest. On Wednesday, the interior ministry issued a list of instructions it said were aimed at thwarting attacks during Ramadan, a period of high violence in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

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