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Bahrain: Even Ramadan Is Sectarian

This week in Bahrain we focus on bloggers’ responses to the start of Ramadan. A number of bloggers are frustrated that the start of the month varies according to the different sects. Silver sums up the problem:

I think Bahrain, as small as it is, is the most confused country when it comes to Ramadan. Last years we had 3 different dates for the start of Ramadan!!

When it comes to Sunnis they go with whatever the government (so do some Shiaa). The government hold a Ramadan committee which have never ever seen the moon, so they out source it to Saudi. The good thing about Sunnis, they are united on when Ramadan starts and ends.

Now when it comes to Shiaa, the confusion begins. Every Shiaa Shaikh has his own committee…They keep people wondering until midnight about when Ramadan starts!

[…]

I suggest we make a deal with NASA and send 2 Shaikhs (one Shiaa and one Sunni) on a space shuttle, when they reach out of space, open the window for the sheikhs and make sure they see the moon and then get back!

Ammar also thinks technological advances should be taken into consideration:

And so we're waiting for the sightings to see whether Ramadan is today, tomorrow, or the regular argument we go through every year; the Sunni people decide it is today, but the Shiia decide its tomorrow, and so on. Of course, all of this is based on “testimonies” of people who probably sit at the top of their house, mosque, or maybe even get clearance to go to the top of Al Moayyed tower (hopefully shifting to Bahrain Financial Harbour next year) to get a really close good look at the sky and see if the moon has, in fact, appeared.

Pardon me for being a little rude but this is all a bunch of crap. For one, not everyone has the same eyesight; some have stronger than others. Secondly, a sky can be cloudy, or unclear with haze, hiding the moon even if it has actually appeared. I can go on and on about how this method is subjective depending on the person, where he is located, etc, and thus brings rise to the whole complication between Sunna and Shiaa about which day to fast because the Sunni guy saw it but the Shiaa guy didn't, which day Eid is,and so on. This way of finding whether or not the moon exists is pure rubbish, in this day and age.

Why do I say this? Well, technology has given people the ability to literary stare into space with telescopes and satellites, using the latest technology to find the moon even through the murkiest sky. Not only that, but companies like NASA have the means to actually predict when the moon will appear way before it actually does (and this isn't restricted to huge organizations like NASA, but smaller astronomy centers now have the means to do this as well).

[…]

Does it still make sense that we're sitting on top of a rooftop squinting trying to see if the moon ‘is’ actually there? Lets just wish that this year our Sunni and Shiia brothers celebrate the joys of Ramadhan and Eid together, and blessed may this month be on all thee.

Naz, a Bahraini studying in Australia, feels she's missing out:

So anyhow, as ammar -and half the bahraini blogging population, I bet – has reported, old men are lining up on Bahrain’s rooftops to decide whether tomorrow is the first day of Ramadhan or not.. and later on tonight, my family will be sitting in front of tv waiting for it to be announced..

I on the other hand, with a quick phone call to “ask a sheikh” service (done by a friend, then the info was passed to me) was informed that Thursday is in fact is the first day of Ramadhan.
Last week families in Bahrain stocked up on food (and apparently over stocked on Vimto)

I spent my week studying and doing assignments.. it wasnt until 2 days ago that I realised that Ramadhan is that close!

For the next month Families, teenagers, and even kids will spend their nights in front of television watching episode after episode of the latest in the Khaleeji (Gulf) and egyptian soap operas, gossiping about every episode the next day.

I will spend my nights downloading the above mentioned episodes (if I am lucky enough to finish assignments by then), only for them to be ruined by an over excited friend or relative who has seen them before they went online.

ah, well.. you get the picture.

Cradle of Humanity wants people to remember the true nature of the month, and not be caught up in squabbles:

I like Ramadan because it is the only time of the year during which all my family members gather for a meal- everyday. They are all punctual, too. I like Ramadan because it is a change from the year-round routine. People’s schedules, meals and greetings all change for Ramadan; I like how special Ramadan is treated.

I like the change of air, just how I like the change of seasons and how life and people change to adapt for it. The snow, the coats, the boats, shorter days and longer nights, then the blossom, followed by the sun- flip-flops, beaches and dining alfresco style. A change seen nearly in all aspects of life- I love it.

Almost deprived from the four seasons, watching people revel in Ramadan is refreshing. Ramadan brings with it a feel of togetherness and a connection to tradition not seen any other time of the year.

It stays true though, that every year we manage to successfully sabotage its spirit and extinguish its spark squabbling about when it should start. No, we do not stop there; we squabble once again about when it should end. I care not about Wednesdays or Thursdays, for the joy of Ramadan and Eid would always be one.

Not everyone enjoys Ramadan, though. Eyad finds that it's impossible to get anything done:

Ramadan, a month that I hate, a month that to me means nothing but a load of pending paper work, unanswered emails, abandoned desks, and a total lack of professionalism by many, all of which have the same boring excuse, I’m fasting!!!

When we were in school they used to teach us that Ramadan is about patience, good will, and remembering what god blessed us with everything we have and how hard we have to work for it, but in reality that is only practiced rarely, and even though some try to achieve that, the carelessness of others makes it close to impossible.

We live in a time where doing things quickly is of the essence and if we fail to accomplish our jobs in time, somebody else is going to rip it apart from us and keep it to him self, the amount of wasted business hours in Ramadan is big as it is, especially that we lose 2 hours or more of every working day and the plus Friday we don’t deal with the west, and right after that we have the Eid holiday for 3 days or more if it falls in a weekend.

And aMaL isn't afraid to list her reasons for hating the month:

I can’t stand Ramadan because:
1. I have to wake up early to gulp down my coffee and daily sandwich in the kitchen and not at work.
2. Crankiness spreads like malaria.
3. Hypocrisy unveils like there’s no tomorrow. Everyone decides to be a saint/mulla. A devoted god-fearer. An anal one.
4. No alcohol is available in the market. Officially.
5. There’s barely anything to do in public before 7 pm. I'm forced to turn into an indoor bat.
6. Everyone obsesses about food, shisha and shallow TV shows.
7. Everyone is busy with their families.
8. I receive a million useless text messages congratulating me with the arrival of the Oh So Holy Month even though I’m the last person who can be bothered.
9. All of Bahrain TV’s and the Ministry of DisInformation’s crap unwraps. And it stinks.
10. Heavy meals are eaten in the EVENING. These meals include all the unhealthy foods you can ever use to explain what can damage your health.
11. Bahrainis don’t even agree on celebrating the end of it together.
12. It's the epitome of mass control for political-economic gains.
13. Most people will find something simple like the above stated extremely offensive.

We finish with Butterfly, who is concerned about the increase in road accidents because of fasting:

أحاول قدر الامكان تحاشي الخروج من المنزل في الفترة التي تسبق اذان المغرب فحتى وان التزمت بالسرعة القانونية فأن غيري لا يلتزم، هذا التسابق بين السائقين للوصول الى منازلهم وتناول وجبة الافطار مع أسرهم ليس له ما يبرره، فلا الافطار ولا الصلاة يبرر لهؤلاء السواق تعريض حياتهم وحياة الآخرين للخطر فالمساجد منتشرة على طول الطريق والمطاعم ومحلات السوبر ماركت في كل مكان ايضا وبأمكان اي صائم ان يفطر ولو برشفة ماء حتى يصل الى منزله وما ينطبق على شهر رمضان ينطبق ايضا على العيد، لماذا التسوق في اللحظات الأخيرة، أليست ثلاثين يوما كافية للتسوق؟
I try as much as possible to avoid leaving the house in the period preceding the sunset prayer, because even if I stick to the speed limit, others don't. This race between drivers to reach their homes and to break their fast with their families is not justified. Neither wanting to break their fast or to pray justifies those drivers endangering their lives and the lives of others. Mosques can be found anywhere along the road, and restaurants and supermarkets are everywhere too, so any fasting person can break their fast, even with sip of water, before getting home.

So please drive safely – and have a peaceful and happy Ramadan. More from Bahrain next week.

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