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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Jan. 9, 1996 V4, #2
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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What Non-Muslims Want to Know About Ramadan

By Amin Fekrat (VOA-Washington)

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, is the holiest month of Islam. Muslims the world over are preparing for four weeks of abstinence from eating and drinking and a period of reflection and purification.

On or around Jan. 21, a significant annual Islamic event will begin when a sliver of the New Moon is sighted in Islamic communities.

Before the religious observation can begin the lunar event must be seen by two Muslim faithfuls who are considered to be "just" and confirmed by a "faghih," an Islamic jurisprudent.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a lunar month that ushers in a period of fasting by Muslims everywhere. Their number are substantial, estimated to be one out of every six people on the face of the earth.

The instructions for observances are from the Koran, the fundamental scripture of the faith. Adult Muslims avoid food, drink and smoke from dawn to dusk until the next moon appears in the form of a sliver. Only travelers, the sick, nursing mothers and soldiers on the march are exempt. Those excused are expected to make up the days missed as soon as the opportunity arises.

Fasting, acknowledgement of the oneness of God and the mission of Muhammad as God's messenger, daily prayers, charitable giving and the "Haj" -- or pilgrimage to Mecca -- are among what are known as Pillars of Islam.

The Koran mandates believers to fast to help them guard against evil. The Islamic faithful dedicate the religious holiday period to reflection, self examination, self consciousness, communion and solidarity with other believers. After daytime hours of fasting and reflection comes night time activity.

The Muslim ritual transcends boundaries, color, race, national origin and unifies believers as equals under God whose supremacy is manifested as the creator.

During the month of Ramadan the religious observance provides a pause in the routine and a deliberate moratorium in pursuit of a hedonistic life style.

Muslims trace their religious roots to the year 610 CE according to their tradition, on Mount Hira during the month of Ramadan, Muhammad bin Abdallah, a member of the elitist Quraysh tribe from Mecca, received a divine injunction commanding him to "recite." Muslims believe that some time in the month of Ramadan, Muhammad, in his meditative state suddenly was engulfed by the Divine Presence. "Recite!" commanded the voice, "Recite in the name of thy sustainer who has created man out of germ cell! Recite, for thy sustainer is the most bountiful, one who has taught man the use of pen, taught him what he did not know!"

Within 100 years of Muhammad's prophetic call, the Islamic religion spread to a substantial portion of the populated world. The Koran -- meaning "recitation," in Arabic -- emphasizes reason, perpetual search for truth, careful observation, contemplation and transcendence beyond the transitory, the insignificant and ephemeral.

In the process of the religious search, the observant finds the "signs" and the "clarifiers" (Ayat and Bayyanat, in Arabic) that lead to God as the eternal truth and the source of all existence.

The Islamic quest has been described as a foundation of the scientific method. Discoveries made by Islamic scholars preceded European research and learning. Advances in medicine, astronomy, math and the natural sciences often are attributable to the Islamic world in the early centuries of Islamic expansion. Islamic scholars and scientists transmitted much of the classical knowledge of the ancient world.

Emerging ethnic, cultural and tribal differences have become barriers to Islamic injunctions for perpetual search for truth. But many Muslims hope for revivalism that will once again contribute to Muslim renewal.

China Denies Buying Israeli Technology

By Stephanie Ho (VOA-Beijing)

China denies reports it is purchasing sensitive military technology from Israel. The alleged transfer involves advanced fighter jet technology that Israel developed jointly with the US. At the first Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing of the new year, spokesman Chen Jian said China and Israel maintain normal diplomatic relations and carry out normal economic and technical cooperation.

Chen said the news reports alleging that China is receiving sensitive advanced military technology from Israel are not in accord with the facts.

The spokesman's denial comes after the US State Department said it is looking into reports that Israel transferred technology from the Lavi fighter bomber to China.

The fighter jet is a sophisticated war plane that the US and Israel worked on together. Because the technology was developed with US funds, Israel is required to get Washington's permission before transferring it to another country.

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