Today is the fifth day of Ramadan — the holiest month on the Islamic calendar during which, typically, life in the Middle East slows down. Businesses close early, and families and communities gather every night to break their fast. But this year has been strikingly different. The Syrian government has used the holy month to intensify its violent crackdown on protesters, with tanks entering the town Hama every day since the weekend. Meanwhile in Egypt, hundreds of armed troops stormed Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier in the week, beating protesters with electric batons.
Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.K. from 1999-2000, and author of "Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam," discusses the intersection of Ramadan and Middle East politics. Babak Dehbhanpisheh, Beirut bureau chief for The Daily Beast/Newsweek, reports from Lebannon.