Ramadan struggle in cyclone-hit Mozambique island

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A woman walks past destroyed houses on May 13, 2019, on her way to an aid distribution centre in the coastal village of Guludo on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, in the aftermath of a devastating cyclone. (AFP)
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Muslim men share food for Iftar (fast breaking meal) before sunset prayers on May 13, 2019, outside the central Mosque on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
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Women fetch water for ablution as they prepare for prayers on May 14, 2019, in Kumwamba village on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
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Muzasufa Abakari, 45, the head of the Muslim coastal village of Guludo on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, poses for a photograph on May 13, 2019, during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019

Ramadan struggle in cyclone-hit Mozambique island

  • Residents of the island, where the majority of the population is Muslim, were left without shelter and with few places to worship with estimates that 90 percent of buildings were damaged

IBO, Mozambique: Muslims in the cyclone-ravaged Mozambican island of Ibo are struggling to observe the holy month of Ramadan as most mosques were destroyed and food is in short supply.
The island on the Quirimbas archipelago off Mozambique’s northeastern coast was one of the regions worst hit when Cyclone Kenneth struck last month packing winds of over 200 kilometers (125 miles) per hour.
Residents of the island, where the majority of the population is Muslim, were left without shelter and with few places to worship with estimates that 90 percent of buildings were damaged.
At one of the few mosques still standing, half of the roof was blown away by wind and prayer rugs were damaged by flooding.
Worshippers gather in one surviving section to say prayers. Female worshippers endure the harsh sun praying outdoors.
“Very few people are attending prayers because mosques were destroyed,” said Muzasufar Abakari, head of the village of Guludo.
Residents search for food to break the fast and survive mainly on high-energy biscuits handed out by aid agencies.
“As Muslims we observe Ramadan but there is no food to eat. On Friday (holy day) there was no-one because there is no wall at the mosque,” said Abakari.
The cyclone killed at least 41 people across northern Mozambique and displaced thousands.
Some people on Ibo have been sleeping in damaged mosques.
“People have been sleeping here because their houses were destroyed. With nothing — from clothes to food — God willing our prayers are answered and we will receive help,” said imam Saidi Cassabo, from Kumwamba village.
Before the storm, Ibo island, a popular tourist destination, was a haven of golden beaches, unspoiled coral reefs and lush greenery.


For Iman Jodeh, being Muslim and a progressive Democrat go hand in hand

Updated 26 min 24 sec ago

For Iman Jodeh, being Muslim and a progressive Democrat go hand in hand

  • Iman Jodeh, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s House of Representatives District 41, speaks to Arab News

NEW YORK CITY: In the 1980s and 1990s, Colorado’s Muslim community was made up of fewer than 30,000 people, and there were only five mosques in the entire state.

“It was really small, but we were happy,” said Iman Jodeh, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s House of Representatives District 41.

Ever since she was a child, on the first day of Ramadan, Jodeh has sent teachers a letter, written on the mosque letterhead, saying: “For the next 30 days, Muslims will be fasting. So if your Muslim students seem lethargic by the end of the day, please understand why.”

Today, there are over 100,000 Muslims in Colorado.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“Those Muslims are starting to make up a big voting bloc, a big portion of our legislators’ constituency. And it is incumbent upon those legislators to make sure they are listening and taking into account the views of the constituents, regardless of their race, creed or religion. And I constantly remind them of that,” Jodeh told Arab News by phone.

The Democrat hopeful grew up in the shadow of two Gulf wars, and shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the Afghan and the Iraqi wars. She remembers the anonymous phone calls at dinnertime threatening to kill her father Mohammed, and recalls her mother, who wears a hijab, being frightened to leave the house.

“It changed my life. In the wake of 9/11, I was a sophomore in college and had not declared my major yet. Two days later, I was a political science major and, again, speaking to crowds having to defend my religion.”

Being a first-born, first-generation American, with perfect English, understanding the cultural nuances of America, I had to walk that line of also understanding the Arab heritage and Islamic culture and nuances, and marrying those two to be able to communicate the need of being an Arab Muslim American woman.

Iman Jodeh

Jodeh, a trained political scientist, spent the years following those events advocating for the Muslim community and the Middle East, “the most misunderstood region of the world, and the people who call it home.” She taught about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Denver, held cultural events about the region and discussed Islam.

The most effective results, according to Jodeh, came via her non-profit “Meet the Middle East,” which invited Americans to take an “educational immersion journey” to the region to meet various stakeholders there, from Arab Bedouin to Palestinians living in Nablus, and both right-wing and left-leaning Israelis.

The travelers were invited to spend time in Jordan, Egypt, and sometimes Iraq and Morocco.

“From the Berbers of Morocco to the Kurds of Iraq, all these cultural and regional nuances must be understood before you can even attempt to understand the complexities of the conflict, and the kaleidoscope that make up the Middle East,” Jodeh said.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“There are things we can highlight to prove to the world that the Muslim world is one of the most fascinating places to be: There are nine women heads of state in the Muslim world, and the US has yet to see our first. It was Arabs and Muslims who discovered contagion; Arabs and Muslims who discovered latitude and longitude.

“Some of the first and oldest libraries were in Alexandria and Baghdad. And one of the oldest universities was in Morocco, founded by a woman.

“The more we can show that to Americans, the more we’re going to see further understanding and commitment to ending violence in the Middle East, as well as asymmetrical policies from the US and how we look at the region.”

Jodeh said her love for Palestine is ingrained. She was never introduced to it. She did not have a first language: It was Arabic and English her entire life. She was never just American. She was Palestinian American.

I am running to make the American dream a reality for everyone. The American dream has become harder and harder to realize. It is not a trite or cliched phrase for me. I am someone who is the product of a family who came here to realize that dream and with the cost of living, the lack of health care, our climate being threatened, our lack of criminal justice reform, civil rights being accosted... These are all things that are hurting the American dream. This is un-American, this is not the Colorado that I want to see.

Iman Jodeh

“This is my identity, I will never abandon this narrative, because I feel I have an obligation to all Palestinians everywhere to advocate when I can.

“The age of learning, that renaissance period is coming. But we have to get through our dark ages before we can get there. And, unfortunately, that is what we are witnessing today in the Middle East. And it’s heartbreaking.

“But the majority of people in the Middle East are under the age of 35, people like myself. We are just learning how to step outside dictatorship and implement something that we have known our entire lives to be true, which is democracy.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“Democracy is not a concept that is new to the Arab world. Shariah law has paved the way for democratic processes like social welfare,” she said.

To Jodeh, being a Muslim and a progressive Democrat complement each other. She gained her knowledge of Islam from her father, a Palestinian immigrant who co-founded the largest mosque in the Rocky Mountain region, and took his daughter with him when he taught or gave speeches on Islam. That put her in contact with scholars whom she still consults today.

In Aurora, a city she calls home and “one of the best and most diverse cities in the nation, a true reflection of America,” Jodeh has been working at the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, where she speaks, often as a Muslim voice, on contentious bills, such as Equal Pay for Equal Work.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“I testified that, 1,400 years ago, God came down with a verse in the Qur’an: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you, for any work you do, be you male or female — you are equal to one another.’

“It was ironic to me as a woman following a religion that is often deemed as primitive, that this was prescribed to the people 1,400 years ago.

“In Islam, there’s a chapter in the Qur’an called ‘Al-Nisa’ or ‘The Woman.’ There is not a chapter called ‘The Man.’

“What’s beautiful about the Qur’an is that it grants women rights not granted to women in the West until the 1920s,” Jodeh said.

“The fact that those rights were laid out for women so early on is proof of the sanctity of a woman in Islam: Her right to divorce, to own land, to take part in government, to own her own business. These were all things that have been practiced and continue to be practiced.”

The Democratic Party primaries in Colorado will take place on June 30.