Friday, September 14, 2007

Ramadan Ramblings

Today I had quite a philosophical chatter with one of my colleagues (not a Muslim). He wondered how were agnostics and atheists coping in this holy month of Ramadan within their overwhelmingly practicing Muslim countries. I replied that most of them have to hide their non-practice of Islam or non- abidingness with it's rules, unless they are really looking for trouble!

I think there is a big hypocrisy attached to this issue: while it's not considered a big deal for someone not to pray; while people who don't pay the Zakat (Muslim alms) are generally ignored, others who don't fast during Ramadan run the risk of being ostracized and stigmatized. I witnessed myself, during my years of study in Casablanca, many instances of that.

One example: I remember when I used to meet with a bunch of pals to study in one of our friend's flat in quartier mâarif in Casablanca. We were quite a heterogeneous group of friends, as far as politics and religion are concerned: there was the observant practicing Muslim, the agnostic and the total atheist; the liberal minded, the conservative and the die hard leftist. One thing is for sure: we were (contrary to what one might expect) very tolerant to each other's thoughts and differences. So, it very often happened that we gathered during the month of Ramadan, to study a bit, laugh a lot. Addicted smokers were "allowed" to smoke, as long as they keep the smoke of cigarette away from the observant believers and more importantly, away from the vestibule of the flat, very close to the front door where tobacco odor could infiltrate into the main building's lobby and attract attention (and anger) of the neighbours. Others who might want to eat were "permitted" to take their lunch. Of course the appetizing and tempting smells of food too, had to be kept behind the kitchen door. So it goes, in a spirit of mutual respect... until that day!

I remember this very well: we were "studying" (having fun would be a more appropriate description), making a hell of a noise, the smokers having totally ignored rule N#1 (remember? keep the cigarette smoke away from the front door). Suddenly, we heard voices of people yelling in the main hall of the building and then hysterical knockings at the door. The first idea (of course) was NOT to open the door and pretend that nobody's inside, which was a stupid thing to do because the bloody cigarette smoke's smell was infesting the whole place. So someone, thinking -I suppose- he would sort things out in the most calm and peaceful way, took the "suicidal" decision to open the door. That was it. We were (all of us) gratified by two hours (I kid you not) of tantrums and a barrage of insults, boos, anger and animosity, alternatively interrupted by some (fortunately) aborted attempts of physical attacks. The whole thing ended as it started: chaotic but quick. Followed, some long minutes of silence and contemplation. Then the first mutual accusations. Some chocked laughter. Again some mutual recriminations. Followed by the first courageous attempts to quit the building bearing in mind that some angry lads maybe waiting for that precise moment, so they could appease their wrath (an anger that is aggravated by hunger- remember people are fasting). Finally everybody could get out smoothly with no problem whatsoever, and even if our host that day had some troubles with his neighbours, things eventually settled down peacefully.


Overall, it's a story that ends up quite well. But I know of other instances where circumstances and consequences were far more serious. So I think that there is a serious issue here that needs to be addressed. As I previously wrote, Muslims are overwhelmingly tolerant; backward phenomenas like these, have more to do -as I see them- with ignorance and lack of public debate in the Muslim countries in general. Believers and non believers should learn to respect each other. Common sense isn't it?
... By the way... Happy New Ramadan for believers and non believers alike!
(picture by "Andrea Baldassari")

2 comments:

Yahia said...

> Muslims are overwhelmingly tolerant;
> backward phenomenas like these,
> have more to do -- as I see them --
> with ignorance and lack of public debate.

You must be kidding! Islam is tolerant, that's true. But there's no way that even a small visible percentage of muslims is tolerant, being ignorants or PhDs.

Hisham said...

Let's make a quick arythmetic Yahia, shall we?
- there are 1.4 to 1.7 billion muslims around the world, according to which source you trust. Let's arbitrarily consider that -say- 10% of those are intolerant, extremist, absolute deadly morons (ignorants or PhDs). That'll make them 140 to 170 millions. That is obviously untrue because if that number of people were roaming around the cities of the world, the same world would have noticed their presence, believe me. And remember we're talking here about a hypothetical 10%... only.
That shows you how absurd your assumption (that most Muslims are intolerant) is my friend. Yes there are vocal extremists and murderers who get the whole media attention, but please don't fall into the con which implies that Muslims are inherently violent people because that only fuels the racist and Islamophobic rhetoric.
Anyway... don't make this your last visit brother!