Hundreds of Muslims are celebrating the month of Ramadan around the world. The celebrations come with different foods and traditions from one country to another, but the celebrations are united by the same practice: Muslims are not supposed to eat from dawn to twilight.
The fast is not only about not eating food, it is also about ridding one’s soul from evil, worshipping God more, and being kind to other people. The month also calls Muslims to practice more tolerance, and give more donations to the poor who can’t afford Ramadan.
Ramadan in the MENA region has changed to accommodate new societal changes since the 7th century. Just like Christmas, Ramadan has gone more commercial than religious, as it was in the past centuries. It is a celebration for merchants and caterers, more than the people who fast.
Ramadan in the MENA is a good excuse to not work and just hang around in your office for your five hours (maximum) daily workdays. People like to complain about the fact that they can’t eat during the day and that they eat too much when the sun goes down. Ramadan is also characterized by laws and regulations to prevent people from choosing whether to observe the holiday or not. It’s about governments forcing more people to either be more religious, or be assaulted.
Here is a list of 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa who are celebrating in their own ways to celebrate Ramadan this year:
Hassan mosque in Casablanca.
The regime in Morocco has laws to criminalize those who dare to eat in public or open their café or restaurants unless it’s for tourists and non-Muslims. Freedom of faith is prohibited by the Moroccan constitution and won’t be permitted in the near future, so those who don’t observe Ramadan can only hide and eat in disgrace.
City of Algiers
Ramadan in Algeria this year will be similar to past years. Because everybody in Algeria is an Arab Muslim, (even if they happen to be ethnically Berber and Christian) everybody will have to observe Ramadan and enjoy fasting for 12 hours in a stifling heat. If they dare not, they’ll be either accused of racism, or trying to destroy the unity of the people and the country, or bothered by some cells of Muslim fanatics who won’t hesitate from terrorizing people with other opinions and asking them to close their churches for instance.
The medina in Tunis.
While Tunisia still considers itself one of the progressive countries in the Arab world, only touristic cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve food and drinks to people who will not eat in public anyway. With the Islamists’ win last year, fewer cafes will remain open, and even if they dare to open, they will be either harassed by police or by bearded fanatics.
Tunisia may claim to be as progressive as it wants for the century to come, but the small North African country has a big arsenal of obsolete laws which were decreed over a century ago, but have not been abolished yet. The state will continue to interfere in people’s private lives, and the future constitution that is now being drafted by Islamists and Arab socialists won’t save them.
A destroyed city in Libya.
One of the major differences between last year’s Ramadan in Libya and this year is the absence of NATO, Gaddafi, gun battles at 2:00 am, and the presence of a new elected body to draft a constitution for the country. Try to avoid skirmishes with other tribes while they’re fasting, or you might end up killed, or worse, they might cut your fingers off and keep you alive (just like the Zentan tribe did to Gaddafi’s son upon his capture).
Tahrir Square protest.
Egypt does not have any laws regarding non-Muslims and Ramadan. Since there are a sizable number of Egyptian Coptic nationals who don’t observe Ramadan, Egypt does not have laws regarding eating in public, serving alcohol, or closing Cafés. But, if you eat during the day during Ramadan, Egyptians might think you are a Coptic second-class citizen or a foreigner infidel.
6) Saudi Arabia
The view from Mecca.
Saudi Arabia has instituted a weird law this year, which is to lower the number of speakers in each mosque so that the sound of call of prayers won’t be unpleasant to anyone. The law was not welcomed by Saudi citizens, who already think their kings and princes are not religious enough. The Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement calling all expats to respect Saudis and Muslims and not offend them by eating or smoking in public. Anyone who disobeys this law will be deported (if they're a Western citizen).
Unfortunately, those who wish to observe Ramadan this year will have more challenges, with the tear gas canisters that policemen are throwing at protesters in Bahrain. Now, the discussion has drifted to whether tear gas actually breaks the fast or not, but the situation is more serious than that. Policemen will only be more vicious, now that they’re fasting and it’s still 100 degrees there. At this point, it looks like the Bahraini government wants to overthrow its people, of course with the collaboration of its neighbors and without any objection by major powers (including the U.S.).
Little will change in the little island of Qatar during the month of Ramadan. They’re so rich that they will surely eaten amount that could feed hundreds of families in the starving horn of Africa and other Sub-Saharan countries. They will also continue to fund the war in Syria by day.
Jordan is celebrating this Ramadan in a cruel way; beating orphans and depriving them of the freedom to speak out against the government's unfair abuses. A crowd of Jordanian orphan was beaten up on the first days of Ramadan.
Protest in Douma, Syria.
It looks like Ramadan is the favorite month for Islamists to fight their regimes. As fights are heating up in Syria’s biggest provinces of Aleppo and Damascus, the situation is becoming harder for Syrians to cope with Ramadan. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have already fled the war to neighboring countries since the start of the regime's massacre in the southern villages. Thousands flew to Jordan and Lebanon in the past few days. Ramadan will be extremely difficult for everybody.
Pigeon Rocks in Beirut, Lebanon.
Lebanon is a beautiful place to spend Ramadan. There are decorations in about every corner of the Muslim part of Beirut, and the traditional Ramadan food is excellent. The night life and outings don’t stop, as Ramadan is not a common religious tradition observed by all the Lebanese people. In Lebanon, religion is not the matter of the government, it is a personal choice. However, Lebanon is far from being the secular Arab haven.