Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blessed Holy Ramadan

Islam is the only religion in the world that forces its adherents, under penalty of law, to keep its religious traditions.

On this Arabic TV show host Rashid recently listed the penalties for eating publicly in Muslim countries during Ramadan. Morocco's criminal code stipulates that any Muslim found eating in a public place during Ramadan will be fined and imprisoned from one to six months. In Qatar the penalty is not limited to Muslims; anyone including non-Muslim expatriates and foreign workers caught eating, drinking, or smoking in public will be fined and put in prison up to three months. The penalty in the UAE and Kuwait also applies to all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, although the imprisonment is only one month.

Egypt's constitution does not ban eating publicly in Ramadan, but 155 Christians were arrested in one province alone, Aswan, in 2009 for eating publicly. With the collapse of the government and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movements, there is no telling how many will be arrested, persecuted, or harassed this year.

In Iran in 2004, a 14-year old youth died as a result of the 85 lashes he received for eating during Ramadan. In Algeria in 2010, Algerian Christians who were tried for eating publicly during Ramadan were sentenced to three years in prison, although the sentence was commuted as a result of media attention. At the beginning of Ramadan each year in Saudi Arabia, guest workers are warned that if they eat publicly during the month they will be arrested and subject to imprisonment and deportation.

Muslims in the West love to talk about the spiritual benefits they achieve from Ramadan. It brings them closer to God, they say, increases their Patience and gives them opportunity to focus their attention on matters of the spirit.

That could be true. Spirituality is incredibly subjective, and if someone says that going without food from dawn to dusk makes him or her a more spiritual person who am I to question?

What I find interesting, however, is that young Muslims living in Muslim societies overseas are questioning more and more the regulations that force them to follow particular religious practices whether they want to or not. A young Moroccan blogger named Kacem El Ghazzali, whose English blog can be seen here, posted an Arabic video on youtube in which he forcefully and eloquently argued that penalizing people for eating publicly during Ramadan is a violation of personal freedom and human rights.  Not only does it violate the human rights of Muslims, he argues, but it represents an Islam that imposes itself upon Muslims and non-Muslims whether they want it or not. More than 200,000 Arab-speaking people have viewed his video.

I find this amazing. Had he posted the same video just a few years ago, he might have received only a few hits. But young Muslims are questioning as never before tenets of their religion that their ancestors accepted without argument for centuries. Why does anyone, they are asking, have the right to tell me that I cannot have a sandwich in public for an entire month? What right does anyone have to inform non-Muslim visitors they cannot eat in a restaurant because that might offend Muslims? Why do we belong to a religion that imposes itself upon others whether they want it or not?

Much of this questioning is beyond the radar of the Western media. You probably won't read an article in the Huffington Post about Kacem El Ghazzali's 200,000 hits for his "Let's All Eat in Ramadan" campaign. I would suggest, however, it is much more important than opeds you will read there by Western Muslims telling us how much closer they feel to God during the Holy and Blessed month of Ramadan.


Susanne said...

How interesting! It does seem strange to FORCE people to be spiritual. Like, are you doing this for God or because you might get arrested by the police?

And I hate that "thou shalt not eat in public" is forced on nonMuslims in many countries. Seems to be imposing one religion on all others.

sara said...

Umm in States that don't sell liquor on Sunday, aren't they enforcing religious traditions?

Quotable Quotes: said...

Sara, I would make a distinction between the ruling of an individual US state and the religion as a whole. If Christianity across the board forbade people to drink on Sunday (under penalty of imprisonment), and this were seen as a religious and not a political requirement, I would agree.

Shades of Gray said...

I'd have to agree with Sara on that one. Maybe it can be argued that it isn't subjecting the consumer to a religious requirement, but it seems to be subjecting businesses to a religious requirement. WHoa is that any different than if Muslims wanted law to state that alcohol can't be sold any day? Sure you can drink alcohol whenever you want, but nobody is allowed to sell it to you.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding why some states don't allow stores to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

Sara what is your point. It just reinforces the fact that religion has always been against freedom and will always will be.

Wm East said...

Islam proves itself wrong by imposing forced adherence to rituals as forced adherence deprives a faithful act of sincerity. One is less a follower and more a puppet on a string controlled by an oppressive monarch. Islam at its best.

Adam said...

It is unfortunate that "muslim" countries are among the most backward and least developed on Earth.

If "muslims" would take a clue from their name for themselves (muslim is Arabic for submitter) and bow down to the will of God, they would be far off the better.

The Quran's sura 109 and ayat 256 of sura 2 provide for freedom of religion. "Muslim" countries do not. Thus what proclaimed followers of Islam believe to be the revealed word of God is blatantly and blasphemously ignored.

Do they not realize that they drive people away from Islam because of their ridiculous rules? Do they not realize that they make themselves into the laughing stock of the world by reveling in barbarism? A fool is as a fool does, and they behave quite foolishly.

The leaders of those "muslim" countries in addition to their followers will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement for forsaking the word of God and driving people away from Islam.

aemish said...

Some of these comments are embarrassing. Seriously. Even to read. Come on, people. Really? Really.

celltech said...

It seems to me as though these laws exist not because others eating will "offend" Muslims, but because it will make it difficult for the Muslims. Or rather, the Laws make it easier for Muslims to fast, and not fall into temptation...but any and all of this speaks of an insecure position. Not unlike laws prohibiting other religions from openly practicing and preaching their beliefs. Insecurity and lack of Faith. I always find it difficult to understand that these laws do not cause feelings of shame amongst the Muslims, because this open display of insecurity is just so...well, open.