Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Maghreb: Ramadan Good Wishes and More

The Maghreb blogosphere has been blooming this week with an outpouring of good wishes and congratulations, welcoming this year's holy Muslim month of Ramadan. And amongst the usual greetings and formal congratulations, some bloggers have been exploring Ramadan's practical aspects whilst others, interestingly, expressed what might be considered controversial thoughts, often at odds with conventional views on Muslims.

Moon by Voobie on Flickr

Moon by Voobie on Flickr

Al-Kanz is an online information website that deals with Muslim consumers’ issues in France. The website notices [Fr] that unlike previous years, France's big distribution labels have chosen to publicly specify their target consumers. In France there is pusillanimity attached to the slightest mention of religious communities, which has to do with a certain reading of laïcité, whereby the media, political parties and businesses, avoid targeting specific religious groups for fear of being accused of Communitarianism:

Si, il y a quelques jours, nous déplorions la frilosité répétée des grands noms de la distribution lorsqu’il s’agit de dire clairement que la cible de leurs opérations commerciales à l’occasion du mois de ramadan n’est autre que celle des consommateurs musulmans, il faut bien avouer que nous avons droit cette année à quelques surprises.

It's true that a few days ago, we repeatedly deplored the reluctance of the biggest names in distribution for not stating clearly that the target of their trade operations during the month of Ramadan were Muslim consumers. We must admit that this year we've been granted with a few surprises.

The holy Muslim month of Ramadan is not only a month of austere prayers and fasting, it is, as many bloggers pointed out this week, basically a period of social gatherings and caring for the poor, aiming at transcending social divides and strengthening family ties. Algerian blogger Adel, quoting al-Watan [Fr] daily newspaper, refers to [Fr] government initiatives to alleviate poverty, intended to coincide with the start of Ramadan, but he deplores widespread mismanagement:

A l’approche du ramadan, le gouvernement s’est penché sur la pauvreté en Algérie. Il a promis de débloquer 3 milliards de dinars (30 millions d’euros) pour assurer les besoins alimentaires de base pour les 1,2 million de familles démunies recensées. Un récent rapport du PNUD fait état de l’augmentation du taux de pauvreté dans le pays, où un Algérien sur trois vivrait au-dessous du seuil de pauvreté […] “Etat riche, peuple pauvre” est le slogan le plus utilisé par l’opposition pour décrire une gestion opaque et inégalitaire des ressources du pays.

With the approach of Ramadan, the government is focusing on poverty in Algeria and promised to allocate 3 billion dinars (30 million Euros/43 million US dollars) to ensure basic food needs for 1.2 million poor families. A recent United Nations Development Programme report noted increasing rates of poverty in the country, whereby one Algerian out of three lives below the poverty threshold […] “Rich State, Poor People” is the slogan most often used by the opposition to describe an opaque management and unequal resources.

Ramadan is undoubtedly a month of frenzied consumerism. Speculators, taking advantage of the surge in demand, usually push commodity prices up. But as Maghreb Info [Fr], an online news website reports, some regional governments are announcing strong measures to ensure supply and price stability:

Le gouvernement marocain annonce des mesures pour l’approvisionnement normal et régulier des marchés, mais aussi pour lutter contre la spéculation. Les autorités marocaines soulignent la nécessité de veiller au respect des prix des produits alimentaires, et annoncent un très net renforcement des contrôles sur tous les points de vente au Maroc.

[L]e ministre [algérien] du commerce annonce avoir recruter 1500 agents de contrôle supplémentaires chargés de débusquer les éventuelles spéculateurs.

The Moroccan government has announced measures to ensure regular supply to markets, but also to fight against speculation. The authorities stressed the need to ensure steady food prices, and announced a significant tightening of controls on all points of sale in Morocco.

[T] he [Algerian] Trade minister announces the recruitment of 1,500 additional officers in charge of apprehending any speculators.

During Ramadan every able-bodied Muslim is supposed to observe fasting from dawn until dusk, refrain from smoking or acting in a socially improper manner; or that's the theory at least. Some contend that antisocial behavior tends to increase during the holy month as Tunisian blogger ART.ticuler argues[Ar], referring to a social study published some years earlier. He writes:

وتوصل الدكتور أحمد المجدوب إلى أنّ جرائم السطو المسلح والنشل والسرقة تزيد في شهر رمضان، كذلك تزيد معدلات الجرائم الزوجية كالضرب والإهانة والطرد من المنزل والقتل لأتفه الأسباب خاصة قبل الإفطار أو خلال العشر الأيام الأخيرة من الشهر الكريم
Dr. Ahmad al-Majdub reached the conclusion that crimes like armed robbery, pickpocketing and theft increase during Ramadan. The rate of marital crimes such as beatings, humiliation, expulsion from the house and killing for trivial reasons especially before the Iftar meal or during the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan also increase.

Incidentally, Moroccan blogger Ibn Kafka describes [Fr] how he was assaulted after a meeting he held with blogger friends, gathering in a pure Ramadanesque tradition when people socialize and stay in cafés until late at night. He tells the story:

Nous nous étions rencontré, cinq bloggeurs, pour discuter et passer du temps ensemble après le ftour […] [N]ous avions fini par nous faire éjecter [du café où nous sommes restés] bien au-delà de la fermeture. N’ayant pas terminé la discussion, nous sommes restés près de dix minutes à papoter devant le café, entourés de marchands et badauds. Ainsi que de cinq ou six salopards armés de machetes, transportés sur deux scooters, qui nous avaient repérés […] J’avais ma sacoche avec mon lap-top, et un autre bloggeur un sac-bandoulière où l’on met portefeuille et papiers. C’est nous que les salopards visèrent: l’un d’entre eux, par derrière, tira ma sacoche. Me retournant, je vis un petit type de vingt ans, pantalon et blouson noir, agitant une machete, entouré de comparses, quatre peut-être, deux ou trois avec des machetes. J’ai eu le réflexe de lâcher tout de suite, la sacoche ne contenant que mon laptop, une clé USB et un chargeur pour mon mobile.

We were five bloggers meeting to discuss and spend time together after the Iftar meal […] We've got ourselves thrown out of the café after we stayed well beyond the closure. Having not finished the discussion yet, we stayed out about 10 minutes to chat in front of the café, surrounded by peddlers and passersby. We spotted five or six thugs on scooters, armed with machetes […] I had a bag with my laptop in it, and another blogger a shoulder bag containing his portfolio and papers. We were the ones the bandits were aimed at: one of them pulled my bag from behind. I turned and I saw a little fellow, about 20 years old, wearing black trousers and jacket, waving a machete at me, surrounded by accomplices, perhaps four, two or three of them holding machetes. I reflexively immediately released the bag containing my laptop, a USB flash drive and a charger for my mobile.

Whilst not all Muslims strictly abide by all five tenets of Islam, failing to observe fasting during the holy month is little tolerated. Notwithstanding, some have gone as far as to openly disclose their non observance, like some Moroccan bloggers who decided to create this group [Ar, Fr] for dialog on the social networking website Facebook.

بالنسبة لوكالين رمضان راه كاينة واحد المشكلة يعانون منها و هي انهم مجبرون على النفاق الاجتماعي في رمضان باش ميتعاقبوش بالقانون المغربي الذي يجرم الافطار العلني،اضافة الى انهم ممكن يتعرضو الى عنف من طرف المجتمع ،وللاشارة فالسنة الماضية تعرض مواطن للتعنيف من رباعة ديال المواطنين بسبب شربه للماء في الشارع في مدينة فاس.هاد العنف كيعبر على ان المواطنين صايمين غير متسامحين مع لي واكل رمضان و الدولة كتزيد تشرعن هاد الثقافة ديال اللاتسامح مع وكالين رمضان […].
المغرب موقع على اتفاقيات ديال حقوق الانسان و لي فيها،ان من حق اي مواطن يمارس حقه في المعتقد،و لكن الدولة مكتحترمش الاتفاقيات الدولية لوقعت عليها…

فكرة تأسيس هاد المجموعة ماشي دعوة لاي طرف،انما فقط من اجل فتح حوار عقلاني و هادئ بين الصايمين و الشاحطين رمضان.

Those who don't fast during Ramadan suffer from a stigma that forces them into social hypocrisy in order to avoid being prosecuted by Moroccan law which criminalizes eating in public during this month, not to speak about the violence they might endure from members of the public as it happened last year in Fez. This violence translates the intolerance Ramadan observers have towards those who don't abide by religious rules – something that the state enforces through legislation.
Morocco is a signatory of international human rights conventions which entail freedom of conscience, but the state doesn't comply by these rules.
The idea behind this group is not to implore any party but rather to open a reasonable dialog between observers and non observers during Ramadan.

A novel and arguably progressive initiative that apparently Jalal Aaouita, a commenter amongst others, is not prepared to accept. He writes:

كفى من هذه الحرب على مسلمات المسلمين بدعوى الحرية و المسؤولية …نحن نعلم من يحرك هذه التوجهات و إذا علمنا من يحركها زال العجب …فالعلمانين و الليبرالين هذه خططهم كما فعلوا في تونس و غيرها من بلاد المسلمين الضرب في المسلمات حتي يسهل عليهم الضرب في المقدسات و الركائز

Enough of this war on Muslim's beliefs under the pretext of freedom and responsibility … We know who's driving these ideas and once we've discovered the instigators, then there will be no wonder left… These are the plans of secularists and liberals who, by these attacks want -as they did in Tunisia and other Muslim countries- to target our values and pillars.

Beyond the controversy, the profusion of blog posts during this week suggests that blogging and social networking on the Internet have become part and parcel of social activities during Ramadan along with dedicated viewing of soap operas on TV, compulsive shopping and… prayers.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.