Monday, June 22, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Five

Ibn Warraq continues his observations on Ramadan...

Walking in the streets in Rabat today I came across a man smoking in public. Then, a few yards on, a young couple were tucking into a particularly delicious lunch. I was getting money from an ATM, but something compelled me to turn and watch them eating.

"They're foreign," said a voice behind me.

I turned and met a man named Faouzi. In his fifties and the proud owner of a rather large beard, I was interested that for an obviously conservative man there was no sense of disapproval. "They are not Muslims, so no matter that they eat. B'saha! Good health to them."

 "B'saha! Good health to them."

In fact, there is often more of an emotional reaction experienced by those eating than those fasting. A sense of embarrassment, of awkwardness, as though all the social norms have gone out the window. As long as eating and drinking is reasonably discreet, visitors will find Moroccans to be tolerant and understanding.

There is still a lot of misunderstanding about Ramadan. Today I read a commentary by Paul Martin, an American, who said "Ramadan is cruelty to children and it should be banned. Children are forbidden and food or water all day for a month. Anyone else doing that would lose custody of their children. Horrible garbage." You got it in one, Paul - total garbage. Children up to the age of puberty eat whenever they like.

It is not just non-Muslims who can eat and drink during Ramadan. While healthy adults are expected to fast, children, the ill, the insane, women who are menstruating, postnatal, pregnant or breast-feeding and travellers all share various exemptions.

Menstruating women often fast for a few days prior to Ramadan in order to make up for the days when they will not fast. In a similar way an old or ill person can not fast, but is expected to feed a poor person (miskeen) for each day they don't fast.
And as for those for whom fasting is difficult, (e.g. an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day)”[al-Baqarah 2:184]
Children up to the age of puberty can (and will) eat when they like!

For the Muslims who make up an overwhelming majority of the Moroccan population, Ramadan is a time of joy, and fasting is simply one aspect of the month. The evenings, full of companionship and food are a daily blessing.

In neighbouring Tunisia there is a battle taking place between the moderates and conservatives. The moderates want cafés to stay open for tourists and non-fasting Tunisians. They are advocating putting lots of pot plants to hide those eating from public view.  On the other side the President of the centrist Association for Advocacy and Reform, Adel Almi, self-proclaimed defender of "morality", advocates surveillance cameras to track "fattaras" (non-fasting Tunisians)!

Last year, the Mufti of the Tunisian Republic called for the cafés to close so as "not to provoke anyone." This year, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has advocated the opposite.

But spare a thought for the Muslims in those parts of the world where war is ripping apart families and the society. For millions of displaced refugees, Ramadan is extraordinarily difficult. But still families muster what they can to maintain a tradition that is at the heart of Islam.

There are also countries where, because of the suppression of Muslim minorities, believers have to fast secretly and hide their Iftar meals from the authorities.

In China, where there are some 20 million Muslims, government employees and children have been barred from attending mosques or observing  Ramadan. In many places, women have been banned from wearing face-covering veils, and men discouraged from growing long beards.

Uighurs from Xinjiang fasting in secret

Last month, in the heavily Muslim Uighur region of Xinjiang, Chinese authorities ordered Muslim shops and restaurants in Laskuy township to sell alcohol and cigarettes in an effort to weaken Islam’s hold on residents in the region.

At the other end of the scale are the members of the Moroccan Masayminch (We're Not Fasting) movement. While there have always been Muslims who, for personal reasons, do not fast during Ramadan, they usually abstain from eating, smoking and drinking in public.

In Morocco, where public fast-breaking is still a criminal offence, Masayminch activists have re-launched a campaign calling for the right to break the fast publicly during Ramadan. The campaign as part of a larger initiative that aims at widening the range of personal freedoms in the country.

However, the tactics employed by Masayminch are naive. They recently published a picture of one of their members drinking water during the first day of Ramadan. That was not really the problem. What was, was the location - the Hassan II Tower, a religious landmark in the capital Rabat.

The group was founded by young Moroccans, seeking to repeal article 222 which imprisons for up to six months people who break the fast in public place during Ramadan. They call for the right of Moroccan non-believers to eat, drink or smoke during the Muslim holy month.

Our friends at Morocco World News report that on the third day of Ramadan, a group of young male Moroccan surfers launched a campaign to prevent foreign tourists on a beach in Agadir from wearing bikinis during the holy month of Ramadan.

However, not everyone agrees with the campaign.

“It seems that a number of Moroccans do not appreciate that that there is a separation between their personal life and the lives or choices or others,” a local resident who works in the tourism sector told MWN on the condition of anonymity. “It should remain so, especially when it comes to tourists who visit Morocco and contribute to the economy of the country,” he added. “This kind of initiative might discourage those tourists willing to visit Morocco from booking their flights, further deepening the crisis in the Moroccan tourism industry,” he concluded.

The "no bikini" brigade will have an uphill battle as a friend in Agadir reported, "It's not just tourists here. The Moroccan girls wear them as well."

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

A visiting Saudi prince held a party for his Moroccan friends and decided to make it he included a large swimming pool stocked with alligators.

To get the party started, he announced that anyone who could swim across his pool and come out alive would be granted three wishes.

But no one appeared to take up the challenge.

All of a sudden, there was a big splash.

It was Driss swimming like a bat out of hell. He surfaced alive at the other end.

So the prince asked, "What are your three wishes?"

Driss didn't hesitate. "Give me a shotgun and bullets and show me the idiot who pushed me in."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY SIX

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