IS, the so-called Islamic State, has been increasing their attacks to the point where it is difficult to keep track of who has been most bombed most recently, with four attacks targeting Muslim countries at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
These are brutal and despicable acts, but understanding just how despicable they are requires an understanding of the importance of Ramadan. For the last month, Muslims around the world have been refraining from food and drink during the daylight hours, and standing for long prayers at night, all the while going about their normal routine of work or school. It is a blessed month, and Muslims try to take advantage of this time to increase spirituality and become closer to God. The atmosphere is comparable to the holiday season leading up to and including Christmas: happiness, generosity, and love. It is a time of family, when the community comes closer together.
IS has chosen this time to target Muslims, just as they are wrapping up the holy month and looking forward to Eid-ul-Fitr, the first of two religious celebrations. This is akin to carrying out atrocities in the days leading up to Christmas.
On June 28, there was a suicide gun and bomb attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, the third busiest airport in Europe. Three gunmen opened fire, and detonated bombs when shot at by police. 45 people were killed and 240 injured.
On July 1, militants held hostages at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, until troops entered almost twelve hours later. The siege began in the evening, as diners were gathering to break their fast. Twenty hostages and two policemen were killed, most of them foreigners from Italy and Japan, and 30 others were injured. The gunmen tortured anyone who was unable to recite the Quran, and only provided food overnight for the Bangladeshi captives. More information about the attackers is emerging: they were educated young men from prominent families, who had been reported missing back in December.
On Sunday, July 3, a truck filled with explosives detonated in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital. An estimated 200 people were killed, with the death toll rising as more bodies are dug from the rubble. Many of the victims were women and children, doing Eid shopping after breaking their fast in the popular shopping centre in the Karada district, in preparation for the celebration. A police officer said that dozens burned to death or suffocated. Hundreds more are injured. Residents are angry with the government, blaming them for the lack of security. A woman told their local newspaper, “We can’t enjoy the Eid; if it isn’t ISIL, it’s al-Qaeda, and if it isn’t the two, it’s the filthy corrupt politics in this country.” They will be mourning, rather than celebrating.
Finally, (at least, “finally” on the day of writing) on July 4, there was a suicide bombing in the Muslim holy city of Medina in Saudia Arabia, outside the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad. There are no words strong to condemn this atrocity, carried out at a holy location and a holy time of year. Four security officers were killed, and five other people were injured. The attack has not yet been claimed, but IS is suspected. There have recently been two other suicide attacks in the Saudi cities of Qatif and Jeddah.
There has also been a lot of criticism as to why these attacks are getting significantly less media coverage than Paris, Brussels, or Orlando did. Why Facebook does not have a profile picture filter to show solidarity. Perhaps the media considers Western lives to be more valuable, more worthy of air time. Or perhaps they do not want to re-evaluate their opinions. It’s hard to mark Islam as the problem, as a terrorist religion, when Muslims are now the ones being killed and injured in the hundreds. Even worse, in their holy month.
I shudder to even begin to speculate about IS’s twisted motives, and I shudder to think about what may be in store. Here’s to hoping that Eid can pass without any violence or anger or senseless tragedies.