Palestinian dad beats drum for age-old traditions of Ramadan

Abu Atwan and Mohammed Shaath perform al-musaharati in Rafah. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 20 May 2020

Palestinian dad beats drum for age-old traditions of Ramadan

  • Abu Atwan has operated as musaharati in his neighborhood west of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip for the past seven years

GAZA STRIP: Despite the march of modern technology, Abdel Khaleq Abu Atwan continues to beat the drum for the age-old traditions of Ramadan in Palestine.
Every year, during the holy month of fasting, the hairdresser and father-of-three   takes on the role of musaharati, the name given to the person who walks residential areas to wake worshippers for their sahoor meal.
It is a custom that has been passed down through generations and remains a deep-rooted part of Ramadan for many Muslims.
As Abu Atwan roams the streets before dawn prayers, adults and children often come out of their homes or peer from windows to watch him pass by beating his drum while reciting prayers.
Although modern technology can now be relied upon to alert worshippers, many Palestinian communities continue to adhere to the time-honored ways.
Abu Atwan has operated as musaharati in his neighborhood west of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip for the past seven years. Wearing a traditional Palestinian costume along with a red hat and white scarf, he weaves his way through the streets banging his drum for around 90 minutes before returning home to have a sahoor meal with his family.
He told Arab News that he loved performing the role because of the interaction and appreciation he received from people, especially when he recited hymns about the importance of fasting and worshipping God, and slogans urging national unity and interdependence.

FASTFACTS

• Musaharati is a custom that has been passed down through generations and remains a deep-rooted part of Ramadan for many Muslims.

• Although modern technology can now be relied upon to alert worshippers, many Palestinian communities continue to adhere to the time-honored ways.

• The Israeli blockade has adversely affected all aspects of life for the 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip ‘but had not diminished enthusiasm for the musaharati.’

While computers, TV and other technological developments had changed the habits and lifestyles of many people, he said the musaharati role was still respected and had maintained its popularity in many communities.
The Israeli blockade and political turmoil has adversely affected all aspects of life for the 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip but Abu Atwan noted that these issues had not diminished enthusiasm for the musaharati.
Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak Abu Atwan has seen a dramatic fall in business at his hairdressing salon. However, although his work as a musaharati was voluntary, he said he sometimes received money and other gifts from people in honor of his role, which helped in the deteriorating economic climate.
Abu Atwan is accompanied on his Ramadan rounds by his friend Mohammad Shaath, 25, who said he enjoyed being able to bring smiles to the faces of people while chanting religious and patriotic hymns and slogans. Shaath added that musaharati rituals were among the most important features of Ramadan.


Leader of banned charity leader seeks asylum from Turkey amid Macron-Erdogan row

Updated 37 min 26 sec ago

Leader of banned charity leader seeks asylum from Turkey amid Macron-Erdogan row

  • Sihamedi, the founder of the BarakaCity NGO, claimed that he no longer felt safe in France

ANKARA: The prospect of granting asylum to Idriss Sihamedi, the founder of a Muslim charity that has been shut down in France over his alleged ties to the “radical Islamist movement,” stirred debate about the potential repercussions amid the already escalating French-Turkish spat.

The Turkish interior ministry announced on Oct. 29 that Ankara will assess Sihamedi’s request for himself and his team after receiving his official application.

Sihamedi, the founder of the BarakaCity NGO, claimed that he no longer felt safe in France. His NGO was closed officially on Oct. 28 on the grounds that it “incites hate, has relations with the radical Islamist movement and justifies terrorist acts.”

He posted his asylum request on his official Twitter account in both French and Turkish, tagging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also alleged he had received death threats.

His post received a quick reply from the Turkish interior ministry’s migration management department: “Hello Sihamedi. If you and your colleagues were to personally apply to our institution with your surname, first name, identity information, petition for an asylum request and your passport number, your request will be assessed.”

However, experts think that proceeding with the asylum request of such radicals means playing with fire.

“I think Erdogan is continuing to play a dangerous game by courting relationships with radical figures and in some cases jihadists,” Colin Clarke, senior research fellow on terror-financing networks at the Soufan Center, told Arab News. “Turkey is already viewed as a hot spot for jihadists given its proximity to Iraq and Syria.”

Sihamedi is accused of inciting hatred, encouraging people to violent acts, maintaining relations within the radical Islamist movement, money laundering in the name of Salafi organisations and expressing support for Hitler and the Nazis. He is also blamed for organizing suicide attacks and supporting Daesh.

According to Clarke, if Turkey grants asylum to Sihamedi and his team, it may create trouble, both domestically but also with NATO allies.

“Moving forward with actions like this could easily backfire on Turkey and cause considerable blowback. I find these overt flirtations with radical Islamists counterproductive and short-sighted,” he said.

Sihamedi was deported from Turkey last year in May at France’s request and his passport was confiscated at Istanbul airport.

BarakaCity was founded in 2010 in Evry-Courcouronnes (Essonne). The Islamic humanitarian NGO has been closely monitored by French intelligence since 2014. Its buildings were raided several times in 2015 and 2017, and it was investigating for “terrorist financing” and “terrorist criminal association” for three years.

The NGO has said it wants to move its headquarters to another country. At a time when relations between Paris and Ankara are more strained than ever, the Turkish branch of the NGO is headed by a Franco-Turkish national known for his Salafi credentials.

“The French government dissolved BarakaCity also because in the past the NGO received money from Samy Amimour, a member of the Bataclan terrorist commando group in  2015, and from Larossi Abballa, who in 2016 killed a policeman and his wife in Magnanville,” said Matteo Pugliese, associate research fellow at Milan-based think tank ISPI.

“According to the French government, BarakaCity provides a sort of ideological justification for violent radicals, especially when it calls for the punishment of those who publish cartoons or criticize Islam. I think that we are talking about a grey zone, where non-violent extremism meets violent radicalization.”

Sihamedi was released under judicial supervision and is due to face trial in December.

French government also announced plans to dissolve other associations suspected of supporting extremist ideologies.

“If Turkey grants asylum to Sihamedi, France will use this to accuse the country of sheltering Islamists who radicalize people with online propaganda,” Pugliese said. “This is part of the verbal escalation between Macron and Erdogan and will be used by both for political internal goals.”