My summer recess is over and I am back. A warning to those expecting a tight piece of written work from me this evening – I am liable to ramble on a bit as I skip through civil war and onto true love, passing through a Muslim festival en route. Not quite Kerouac, but largely unedited and helped with a large glass on red nonetheless. After prompting a discussion on the Blogcatalg discussion boards about Ramadan, my fellow bloggers have asked me to blog about it. What does Ramadan mean to me, as an uber-nomad who has lived amongst Muslims? Hmmm, with respect and peace be upon you all, I am not a follower of Allah – it doesn’t ring my bells. Those close to me who are, show signs of increased compassion and thoughtfulness, but also fatigue and a quiet distance akin to a hangover. I will point you randomly in the direction of my favourite Muslim blogger, Hanifa.
I can, however tell you what fasting and contemplation mean to me – which play their part in Ramadan. Fasting, as I get it, is about giving up something generally taken for granted and an observation of what is to follow. I sometimes fast for a couple of days at a time. It focuses the mind, and cleanses the body. I am usually at my most inspired and creative following a period of abstinence.
Contemplation is probably even more boring for you to hear about. It is a reassessment of my position in life, and most importantly, this year it has meant some important changes. Ramadan is an appropriate time to announce my plans to launch an organisation that promotes non-violent resolution of conflict (using media and arts). Sound a bit hippy? I am fairly determined to make this as dynamic as it has to be. Never before has it felt so right. As with a lot of things in my life at the moment, not least the true love for a Land Rover 90 and the man set to drive her.
So in contemplating peace I got to thinking about a country I stopped in for a good three years and got to know better than most – Sri Lanka. I am not about to give my views on the complex civil war that has engulfed the island for over two decades, killing over 70,000 people. OK, well I might hint at it. I won’t take sides though, I can see both arguments – as distorted and distressed as they are. I do refuse to buy into the demonising of the Tamil Tigers thing. Their violent murderous crime is well catalogued, but perhaps what isn’t, is their ability to protect and give order amongst a chaos brought about by an oppressive government (which I witnessed first hand in 2003).
This is not simply about fighting terrorists as Ravindra Wickremasinghe seems to think in the Asian Tribune this week. In Afghanistan last month I was told that “anyone could become a Taleban in the eye of a foreigner”, then I guess any Tamil could become a terrorist in some eyes. Careful.
I was thinking about Sri Lanka when a friends Facebook status informed me that he was once again displaced. I found out he had left the island of Sri and Serendipity and headed where many have headed - to another much larger island full of strange creatures such as wombats. During the ceasefire a few years ago, I travelled with this friend to Jaffna and the north and saw the places he grew up in shattered by what Lankans loving call “the problems”. His departure from Sri Lanka is as significant to me as the assassination of my friend in Basra last year. A hope extinguished. One less ray of sunshine in a difficult place.
So, (she says in her best Radio 4 voice), thought for the day is to consider all those who tonight are not where they want to be. Those who are apart from their lovers (a-hem). Removed from their children, or displaced from their cherished homelands (for whatever reason). Or, like the blogger Mohammad Erraji, away from their families (because he is in prison in Morocco).
I am beginning to sound like Reverend Nomadic. My summer was filled with wine and good times, and I have much to think about, so a fast may be long overdue to bring me back round. So, a Ramadan Mubarak to you all. And most importantly may peace be upon you.