Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Twenty-Two

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

As the heat continues, the greetings in the street are more subdued, but have changed from Ramadan greetings to those wishing friends a "great Eid".

Walking the streets of the Medina today I was struck by the resilience of the workers in Fez, who, despite fasting in such extreme conditions, still had the energy to greet people warmly.  Business continued, albeit at a slightly slower pace, and the good folk of Fez were smiling.

On one side of a narrow street leading to the leather tanning area, an old man, clearly unwell, sat with his back against the wall, reading the Qur'an. An old woman, probably the of the same vintage walked by and then, doubling back, pressed a twenty dirham note into his palm. It was such a simple moment, but one that made me realise that being in Fez during Ramadan is a blessing.

Young girls in Gaza read the Qur'an

But, spare a thought for those in Gaza, where, despite the misery of the homeless, Ramadan is being observed with dignity.

In the year since the 50-day conflict with Israel, which saw thousands of Gaza's buildings reduced to rubble, not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt. Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security. Although the UN brokered a deal to ease building material imports, progress has been slow. Over 100,000 Palestinians remain homeless.

A Ramadan gift from Coca-Cola?

The Middle East branch of Coca-Cola says it is celebrating Ramadan by distributing cans without its trademark label as part of a new campaign to combat prejudice.

The can design features a red background and Coca-Cola's signature wavy, silver stripe -- but not the words "Coca-Cola. On the back of the can, it says: "Labels are for cans not people." But hang on a minute - isn't that a can, not a person?

Confused, well not as much as the folk in Coca-Cola's video that the company has released on YouTube showing the misconceptions that can arise from prejudice.

"Through this campaign, Coca-Cola encourages the world to see without labels, but instead to open their hearts and see with their hearts," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "Coca-Cola is removing its own iconic labels in an effort to promote a world without labels and prejudices." That sounds a rather grandiose mission for a can full of too much sugar.

The brand is one of many to couple marketing and social activism, though results have been mixed. Critics debate whether these are genuine acts of social good or mere marketing ploys that associate a brand with feel-good campaigns. Also debatable is whether a limited-time campaign can have enough impact to change perceptions in the long term.

The other big downside? The Coca-Cola method of learning Arabic script. Reading a Coca-Cola can has always been lesson one. No mention of Coca, no lesson.

Breaking the Fast can be fatal

While Moroccans mulled over the fact that five young men have been charged with fast breaking in public and may go to jail, militants have crucified dozens of Syrian men and boys for breaking the Ramadan fast.

The five youths, arrested in Marrakech for not respecting the Ramadan fast, face trial. A Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) spokesperson, Omar Arbib says, "The prosecution has decided to continue prosecuting the five defendants, who remain detained".

"These young people accompanied one of their friends to Marrakech airport. And it seems that the heat is pushed them to buy juice from sellers from Jamaa El Fna square and drinking it in public," said Omar Arbib.

These five young Moroccans face between one and six months in prison.

Meanwhile, Daesh (ISIS) militants have crucified dozens of Syrian men and boys for breaking the Ramadan fast. Eyewitnesses told the Syrian ARA News, “Those who break Ramadan are being crucified on electricity poles in Deir ez-Zor,” in eastern Syria.

“The roads are filled with crucified men who violated the group’s strict regulations during Ramadan. There are dozens of victims who remain hanged on electricity poles across the province,” they said.

ARA links to a video, published by activists, which purportedly shows people being “crucified alive” in the town of Hajin, a city to the east of Deir ez-Zor, for breaking the Ramadan fast without legitimate reason.

A pro-Daesh (ISIL) demonstration in Mosul

And, in a bizarre twist, at least 45 Daesh fighters died after eating a fast-breaking Ramadan meal in the Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday.

According to Saeed Mamozeny, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Party, 145 Daesh fighters took part in the Iftar meal, the traditional evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Shortly afterwards, 45 members were reported dead. The spokesman also said that they have not determined if the cause was food poisoning or deliberate poisoning.

Mosul, once with a population of over 1 million, was captured last June by Daesh. It is the largest city in the group’s self-declared caliphate.

Daesh has reportedly suffered casualties as a result of poisoned food in the past. In November, the Times of Iraq reported that Free Syrian army militants had infiltrated an ISIS camp, posed as cooks and poisoned their lunches. Dozens of Daesh fighters subsequently died.

The darker side of Ramadan

Regular Ramadan Diary readers will remember that we talked  a few days ago about the devils being locked up. Well, it seems in a couple of places they have slipped out of their chains.  It is clear that during this month of Ramadan, the curve of naughty behaviour and crimes has not decreased in the wilaya of Casablanca. It seems that wicked folk are not being sensitive at this month of contemplation and prayer. In Anfa Prefecture alone, some bad guys an big motorcycles have snatched 200 bags off unsuspecting victims.

During the month of Ramadan, which is not even completed, police say that "insecurity" dominated in the medina, on the Avenue des FAR and areas of Sidi Othman and Moulay Rachid. The average robberies and assaults have actually increased in these areas.

A Casablanca newspaper alleges that nervous exhaustion, caused by fasting, has played a role in accidents as well as crime. The paper cited the case of the son of a wealthy Casablanca family who at the wheel of his car, almost killed a pedestrian who was slow to cross the road on a zebra crossing.

But the most tragic incident of this month remains the terrible anger incident last Thursday in the Casablanca medina, shortly before the f'tour, when a street vendor fatally stabbed a customer after a simple altercation over prices.

The lack of civility and respect for others and the law is not what is expected during this holy month when the goal is to awaken self-awareness and overcome our negative impulses.

The other disturbing trend is that of people leaving mosques after prayer and heading straight to nightclubs, cabarets or restaurants transformed into dance spaces.  In these places, Assabah newspaper reports, drugs are part of the scene. The paper goes on to claim that drug use increased 3 times during the month of Ramadan. This increase offsets the decline in alcohol consumption that characterises Ramadan.  Now the use of "maâjoune" and other cannabis products has increased.

According to the Arabic daily, pills and sometimes even herbs known for their euphoric effects are consumed in place of alcoholic beverages. Trading in pills, shows an exponential increase during the holy month, Assabah reported. The demand is so high that dealers have doubled the price of their goods. A "Chira plate" costs 2500 DH instead of 1500 and a gram of cocaine roses to 500 instead of 250 DH.

For those who do not consume, other alternatives are available. Shisha is widely consumed immediately after the end of prayers. The cafes offering this "distraction" are well known and reservations are sometimes made before the time for breaking the fast. According to the head of a cafe, quoted by Assabah, "more than 50% of customers arrive at the café directly from the mosque." This social hypocrisy reaches its peak when these meetings are in places where prostitution is in full swing. `

Evenings in Tangier are also in full swing during Ramadan. Official letters to owners of bars, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants, urging them to respect this month, have had no apparent effect. Assabah says that these places are where deals between tourists from the Gulf countries and prostitutes are negotiated.

In Meknes, gambling, drugs and sex go hand in hand, claims Assabah. While in Marrakech, cabarets keep to their usual habits. There are venues transformed into "Halal cabarets", where, under the dimmed lights, girls dance, "half dressed," for those who have come to satiate the thirst F'tour could not calm.

And Fez? The Medina is a little on the conservative side, but most people agree that "stuff happens". In R'cif this morning police were quick to arrive and identify one man out of six who had been attempting to snatch bags and break into a house. Local women helped police in identifying the suspect and appear to know the identities of the other men involved. And drugs? A local man who tried to sell me a small amount of kif a couple of days ago, swore his was a "pre-Ramadan" price.

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Rachid and his wife, Fatima Zahra celebrated their 25th marriage anniversary and, being famous in Fez, the media gathered to find out how, after 25 years, they had never had a single conflict.

A 2MTV reporter asked Rachid, 'How is it possible? Twenty-five years and no arguments? Sir. It's amazingly unbelievable. How did you make this possible? "

Rachid smiled and nodded "We have been a happy couple since our marriage, thanks to our honeymoon trip to Tissa."

The 2MTV reporter prompted him further. "Sidi, tell us about it, so that all couples can also be happy like you."

Rachid was shy, but finally agreed to reveal the secret of their happy marriage.

"For our honeymoon,"Rachid said, "We went to Tissa and on the second day we went for a horse ride. My horse was pretty okay but the horse on which my wife was riding seemed to be a crazy one. On the way, that horse jumped up suddenly, making my wife topple over. Recovering from her position on the ground, she patted the horse's back and said, "That was your first time". She again got on the horse and continued with the ride. After a while, it happened again. This time she again was calm and said "That was your second time". When the horse dropped her a third time, she just took out a revolver from her purse and shot the horse dead.

Rachid glanced at Fatima Zahra who nodded at him to continue.

"Well, I shouted at my wife: 'What did you do you crazy woman? You killed the poor animal.
Are you mad? She gave me a look silently and said, 'That is your first time' That is it. We are happy ever after."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy


Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran!

Print Friendly and PDF

No comments: