As Muslims around the world welcome the holy month of Ramadan, observers say one of the objectives of fasting is to feel with the poor. However, for many Muslims around the world, they don't need to attempt to feel with the poor — they are poor.
One of the most notable Muslim-majority regions with extreme poverty is the Gaza Strip. According to the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza, 55 percent of the population in Gaza is currently unemployed, Middle East Monitor reported — the highest in the world, according to The World Bank.
Last summer's conflict with Israel left 200,000 additional Gazans unemployed, with 39 percent living in poverty and 21 percent living in severe poverty.
“The ongoing blockade and the 2014 war have taken a toll on Gaza’s economy and people's livelihoods," Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank country director for West Bank and Gaza, said. "Gaza’s exports virtually disappeared and the manufacturing sector has shrunk by as much as 60 percent. The economy cannot survive without being connected to the outside world.”
Daily Mail portrayed pictures of Gazan families breaking their fast together this Ramadan, amid the rubble of last summer's fighting.
In preparation for Ramadan, however, the Israeli government had decided to ease restrictions on Palestinian travel.
The government decided men over the age of 40 and all women could pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem — a holy site for Muslims — and that Palestinians could travel directly from the West Bank to the mosque by bus. In addition, 800 Gazans were allowed to travel to the mosque for Friday prayers, according to L’Agence France-Presse.
However, Israel is revoking other lifted restrictions — such as allowing 500 Palestinians to travel overseas from the Ben Gurion International Airport — in light of two homicidal attacks, according to Al Arabiya.
One Israeli policeman was stabbed by a Palestinian at the entrace to the old city of Jerusalem, and two Israeli hikers in the West Bank were shot — one fatally — by a Palestinian.
The difficulties of observing Ramadan are not only seen in Gaza.
Thousands of Muslims in war-torn areas of the Middle East are migrating to Europe to escape the fighting, according to NPR.
Reporter Ari Shapiro observed the plight of Muslims to the city of Belgrade. One 23-year-old man, Abdel Hamid, is spending his first Ramadan away from his family in Syria.
"It's very difficult," he told Shapiro. "My family between ISIS, between the government, bombs."
Observing Ramadan amid poverty has even reached the U.S. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center study, 45 percent of the approximately 8 million Muslim Americans reported having an income below $30,000 a year.
"The dinner tables of middle class and affluent Muslims overflow with a rich mosaic of food and drink," Khaled Beyond, assistant professor at Barry University, wrote in Al Jazeera America. "However, for less fortunate Muslim Americans, Ramadan is generally an extension of the rest of the year — short of the rich dishes and excess wealthier Muslim families enjoy."
While Muslims around the world may be struggling through Ramadan, there have been efforts to help them.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency launched a global Ramadan campaign — led by UNRWA Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Youth and Arab Idol star Mohammad Assaf — called #SOS 4 Gaza to support children and their educational endeavors, according to Al Bawaba.
In addition, the only mosque in Belgrade has been and will continue to prepare free daily iftar dinners for fasting Muslims, according to NPR.
"At the mosque, a local named Zaki Saltaf knows that he cannot provide everything these migrants need," Shapiro reported. "Their families are thousands of miles away. Their homes are destroyed. But at least he can give them food, no matter how many of them show up here to eat."
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