The Taboo of Not Fasting in the Middle East
By Muhammed Aladdin.
Every Ramadan, non-fasting Muslims and others who do not practice Islam have to go to extreme lengths in Ramadan to blend in with mainstream society. Many of them choose not to eat or drink in public as religious shaming becomes an all-time high during the 30-days of the Muslim holy month.
Let’s agree on one thing, choosing not to fast should not be a societal taboo. If anything, it is a personal choice, but a lack of understanding of the concept of personal freedoms drives the masses in our region to shame anyone who chooses not to fast, regardless of their reasons.
In many cases, non-Muslims, who are not obligated to abstain from eating and drinking in Ramadan, are forced through a combination of peer pressure and fear of judgment to conform with the majority. In fact, a few years ago, there were calls on social media for Christians and non-fasting Muslims to not ‘hurt the feelings of those fasting’ with eating or drinking, which, in my opinion, is a ridiculous thing to ask people to do.
One marginalized group that has to deal with two types of shaming instead of just one is that of women. Indeed, in our region, non-fasting women are not just shamed for eating or drinking but for menstruating as well. In fact, even just mentioning the menstrual cycle is a huge taboo in the Middle East. In more than one instance, I have seen people express disgust with women eating in Ramadan, which doesn’t make any sense.
What many people forget is that the underlying idea behind fasting has more to do with refraining from food and water. It is a spiritual battle with one’s own indulgences in the pursuit of self-refinement. As a matter of fact, Ramadan should be a time of year where people thrive for self-control and denounce selfishness. However, the reality is far pettier.
A Muslim’s feelings should not be ‘hurt’ when seeing another person eating or drinking in Ramadan. On the contrary, Muslims have to be mature enough to accept that whether or not someone chooses to fast, at the end of the day, it is their personal choice, and by no means do we have the moral authority to either judge or shame.
Instead of focusing on who is doing what, we should all keep to ourselves and concentrate on our personal fight to be better. And, remember, as the old saying goes “to each his own”.