Tuesday marked the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim observance that spans the length of approximately one month. This year, Ramadan extends from 15 May to 14 June. Ramadan is a staple of the Muslim faith, though various people in various sects in various parts of the world all observe it differently.
Typically, with Ramadan comes fasting during daylight hours. That means refraining from eating, drinking and having sex, along with other things depending on where you are, from dawn to dusk. Similarly, the liturgical Christian observance of Lent uses fasting as a way to strip ones-self of physical necessities and reflect upon things religious and spiritual.
Those who devote themselves to the observance of Ramadan are largely not religious extremists, though extremists may take meaning of their own from the month. For most Muslims across most nations, it’s a time of reflection, religious study, teaching and community building in local areas.
How does this relate to military operations?
One might expect that the onset of Ramadan would significantly stifle fundamental Islamic extremists in their ability to fight (assuming it is observed). Hungry soldiers are never going to be as effective as soldiers who have been well-fed and hydrated, and many a battle has been swayed due to one side’s inability to feed or provide water to their troops.
This has been the case in the past, especially if fighters are trying to observe Ramadan while spending days or weeks in the mountains with little existing access to resources. It can take its toll as time goes on.
However, while many Muslims believe the time for ultra-religiosity means a time for peace, and no violence except for self-defense, extremist groups typically increase in their attacks. Historically, there have been major pushes against NATO forces in Afghanistan during Ramadan and that is likely to continue. And as the game of chess is played, western forces have often stepped up their game prior to Ramadan in preparation.
Ramadan is a time for worship, and the Taliban has called their crusade an ultimate form of worship. It then makes sense that, of all the months in the year, Ramadan would be the time to rally the troops and aggressively engage Americans and their allies. What better time to sacrifice ones self in the name of an extremist religious cause, than in the most religious month of the year?
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.