Ramadan starts for hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Netherlands

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the Netherlands start the fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday. During this period, Muslims are not allowed to eat, drink, have sex, or smoke from dawn until evening, and they’re encouraged to do more charity work.

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice and reflection in Islam. The sick, pregnant women, young children, and travelers are not required to fast.

Moroccan-Dutch Muslims follow the Islamic calendar based on the moon’s position. The new month begins when the moon’s first crescent appears in the sky. That was expected to happen on Wednesday night. Turkish-Dutch Muslims use a slightly different calendar. The Turkish government determines the division of the months a few years in advance, based on computer calculations on the moon’s position over the capital Ankara. Turkish-Dutch Muslims start Ramadan on Thursday.

Ramadan starts at a different time each year because the Islamic calendar is ten days shorter than the Western calendar. Fasting begins with the daily morning prayer (fajr) at around 5:00 a.m., just before sunrise. The fast lasts until the evening prayer (maghrib), sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. Then follows the iftar, the meal that breaks the fast.

Mosques across the country will host joint iftars in the coming month. Muslims and Islamic organizations distribute food packages during Ramadan, in neighborhoods, and via the mosque. There are also countless other activities, like the Ramadan Conference (a la New Year’s Eve conference), with comedians Anuar and Jrogen Raymann, among others. Various Islamic sports clubs offer meals and organize sports competitions for young people at later times. Student associations also participate. For example, the Amsterdam SUN is organizing an iftar meal in the EYE film museum.

The fasting month ends with Eid al-Fitr, a celebration with treats, gifts, and visits to relatives and friends. Depending on the phase of the moon, the celebration will probably fall on April 21st this year.

Reporting by ANP

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