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Is it Eid or not? Muslims take step toward resolving calendar dispute

Religious representatives from Islamic countries agree to embrace a common calendar to overcome a long-standing conflict on the start of Ramadan, but their past record inspires little optimism for a genuine compromise.

The exact start of Ramadan, which is a lunar month, and the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows the fast have long been an issue of conflict in the Islamic world. For Muslims in Turkey, Central Asia and the Balkans, Ramadan fasting starts after the crescent of the new moon is sighted with a naked eye. Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, take as a basis the moon’s state of alignment with the Earth. Because of sectarian differences, various communities in the same country are also often at odds, starting the fast and Eid on different dates.

On the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, Leman Memisoglu, an 88-year-old Turkish woman, recalls how her mother, a resident of the Black Sea city of Trabzon, recounted the arrival of Ramadan a century ago. “To know the beginning of the [new] lunar month, the people of Trabzon would watch the sky only. As a small girl, my mother would even compete with her peers to be the first to spot the crescent in the sky. Once the crescent was sighted, they would beat tins and rush to cook and clean, excited that the fasting begins the following day,” Memisoglu told Al-Monitor. “And in my childhood, they would beat drums. We would also let our relatives in Sweden know that the Ramadan was starting,” she added.

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