SHARE
COPY LINK

ISLAM

Arctic Muslims risk health during Ramadan

Swedish Muslims north of the Arctic circle have long waited for and feared this summer. When the sun never sets, they have pondered how to observe Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for a month.

Arctic Muslims risk health during Ramadan

“Kiruna is as high up as you get in Sweden, the sun never sets during this month,” Ali Melhem, 45, who has lived in Kiruna for 24 years told The Local. As the fasting month is set by the moon, Ramadan usually moves about 10 days forward in the calender each year, which means this is the first summer it has proved a 24-hour dilemma for Melhem.

“When I first moved here, Ramadan was in the spring.”

In attendance for the day when Ramadan would run smack bang into the near three-month stretch of never-ending sun, Shia Muslim Melhem has not remained idle in doing his research.

“My wife and I couldn’t make that choice, so we’ve consulted mullahs from Iraq to Iran. They say we can wait to fast until the autumn,” he said, adding that some Sunni Muslims in Kiruna have chosen to break their fast when the sun sets over Mecca as a solution to their dilemma. Ramadan this years started on July 9th and should last until August 7th.

“I did check if I could follow the sun times in a nearby Swedish town like Luleå or Umeå, but even fasting for 23 hours a day is a bit difficult,” father-of-three Melhem said.

There is still no consensus, however, on how Muslims living in Scandinavia should observe Ramadan without jeopardizing their health, according to Omar Mustafa, president of the Islamic League in Sweden.

“Several imams and organisations have different opinions. It is up to each individual to decide, but it is not meant that you should fast around the clock. Islam provides many options,” Mustafa told the media.

Ramadan is an annual observance by Muslims who are obliged to fast from dawn to sunset for a month often in summer. Many abstain from sexual relations as well as food, drink and smoking. Islam does allow some exceptions from participating in the annual fast such as pregnant women, diabetics and the elderly.

In nearby Finland it is also a problem with up to 21 hours of daylight during the summer. A compromise has been suggested by Imam Abdul Mannan, president of the Islan Society of Northern Finland.

“The Egyptian scholars say that if the fasting days are long – more than 18 hours – then you can follow the Mecca time or Medina time, or the nearest Muslim country time,” he said.

“The other point of view from the Saudi scholars says whatever the day is – long or short – you have to follow the local time.”

Ann Törnkvist and Patrick Reilly

Follow Ann on Twitter here

Follow Patrick on Twitter here

ISLAM

Prominent Muslim head of free school seized by security police

The chief executive of a largely Muslim free school in Gothenburg has been placed in custody by the Swedish Migration Agency on the orders of the country's Säpo security police. It follows the arrests of other Imams in recent months.

Prominent Muslim head of free school seized by security police
He was seized on Wednesday and taken to an immigration detention centre in the city, Sweden's Expressen newspaper reported on Thursday
 
Abdel-Nasser el Nadi, chief executive of Vetenskapsskolan, is the fifth senior member of Sweden's Muslim community to be placed in custody in less than a month. 
 
Three prominent imams are now in custody: Abo Raad, imam of a mosque in Gävle, Hussein Al-Jibury, imam of a mosque in Umeå, and Fekri Hamad, imam of a mosque in Västerås. Raad's son is also being held. 
 
 
Sven-Erik Berg, the school's headmaster, told The Local that he had no idea what was behind the arrest. 
 
“We don't know anything. I don't know anything more than you,” he said. “We are doing nothing, but the school is naturally maintaining a dialogue with the Swedish School Inspectorate and their lawyers.” 
 
He said it was inaccurate to describe the school as a 'Muslim school' as it has no official confessional status. 
 
“The chief executive is a central person among Swedish Muslims, so naturally the group of people we recruit from are often those who have a relation to Islam or Sweden's Islamic associations,” he said. “But the school does not go around telling children what they should or shouldn't believe.”
 
On its website the school declares: “At our school everyone is treated equally irrespective of gender, religion, ethnic background, appearance, opinions, or abilities”. 
 
“We are one of the best schools in Gothenburg. You just have to look at the statistics,” Berg added.  
 
A spokesman for Säpo told Expressen that he could not comment on any of the five cases or on whether they were in some way linked. 
 
But according to the Swedish news site Doku, which investigates Islamic extremists, Säpo is probing whether el Nadi has any links to a network of Islamic militants.
 
In an article published last October, the site alleged that El Nadi's activism was part of the reason that so many young men from Gothenburg had travelled to fight for the terror group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. 
 
El-Nadi was previously the school's headmaster, and the school was in 2018 criticised by the Swedish School Inspectorate for not sufficiently promoting equality between girls and boys.
 
When he was interviewed by Dagens Nyheter a year ago, he asserted his loyalty to Sweden. 
 
“I have five children, all of whom were born in Sweden, a big family, and I want to protect this society in the same way that I have protected my children,” he said.  
 
El-Nadi was born in Egypt but has lived in Sweden since 1992. He has twice applied to become a Swedish citizen, in 2007 and 2011, and twice been rejected. 
   
 
 
SHOW COMMENTS