Sunday, September 20

Indonesian Muslims divided on the start of Ramadan


JAKARTA: The world’s most populous Muslim country is divided on the start of the holy month of Ramadan, with millions beginning to fast yesterday and others waiting until the government’s official start-date today.

Indonesia’s religious affairs minister Suryadharma Ali announced late Thursday that the start of Ramadan would fall today July 21, after Islamic astronomers dispatched across the country failed to sight the new moon.

“As our observers found no moon sight on Thursday, the Ramadan month will begin on Saturday,” Ali said, as quoted by the Jakarta Post newspaper.

But the country’s second largest Islamic group Muhammadiyah, which has some 30 million adherents, had earlier announced that according to its astronomical calculations Ramadan began yesterday.

It is not the first time that the Muhammadiyah has offered a differing opinion on the matter, although the majority of Indonesians are expected to follow the government’s official date.

Ramadan also started on different days in Syria where authorities announced that the fasting month begins today but rebel forces battling the regime said they would start a day earlier, on Friday. Syrian state television announced that Ramadan would begin today, but the opposition Syrian National Council decided to begin a day earlier, in line with many Arab nations.

Ramadan began yesterday in most Arab countries, religious authorities announced, but in Oman and Syria as well as for Iraq’s Sunni Muslims and in non-Arab Iran it will start today. — AFP