Morocco: Activists Break Fast in Public, Receive Punishment

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking (among other things) during daylight hours.  In a number of countries, it is socially unacceptable – if not entirely illegal – to eat in public during those hours.  For example, a recent case in Egypt saw a number of Muslims who chose not to fast arrested for their “crimes.”

Shortly after the breaking of that story, a group of Moroccan activists was reprimanded for breaking the fast in public, an action that is punishable under the Moroccan criminal code.  According to The View From Fez:

The Maghreb Arabe Presse said on Monday that local authorities “had managed to defeat an attempted rally that was to be followed by a public rupture of fasting for the repeal of a penal code”.

Moroccan newspapers have confirmed in their Tuesday editions this failed attempt to rally the “non-fasters” in Mohammedia.

This is the first time in Morocco that a group of “non-fasters” appears in public to claim the right not to practice Ramadan, observers note.

The Mohammedia protesters want the abolishment of a Moroccan law that punishes every Muslim openly breaking the fast of Ramadan, before the iftar meal which marks the end of the day.

Without stating agreement for the protesters’ actions, popular blogger Larbi lauds their courage:

Sans préjuger de leur cause il faut reconnaître aux quelques personnes qui se sont déplacés une certaine forme de courage. L’article 222 du Code pénal marocain stipule que tout individu connu pour son appartenance à l’Islam qui rompt ostensiblement le jeûne dans un lieu public pendant le Ramadan est passible de un à six mois d’emprisonnement et d’une amende.

Without prejudice to their case, it should be recognized that some people  have moved to some form of courage. Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code stipulates that any person known for his affiliation to Islam who openly breaks the fast in public during Ramadan is punishable by one to six months’ imprisonment and a fine.

Not everyone who commented on the post agrees that the protesters’ actions were courageous; in fact, the vast majority of them felt that the group was in the wrong.

One commenter, Bouchra, likens the protesters to armchair activists:

They should put this energy and effort into CONSTRUCTIVE actions, making our country better instead of Stupid events like these.
Go out and DO something good for your country instead of finding everything wrong with it. Go out and do something good for your country instead of finding everything wrong with it.
They watch cabe, are online and think they know it all… They watch cabe, are online and think they know it all … GROW UP ALREADY and BE A REAL CITIZEN! GROW UP ALREADY and BE A REAL CITIZEN!

Yet another commenter, casazone, points out potential hypocrisy within the ranks of the protesters, while alluding to Morocco's problem of pollution:

Il est “fort probable” que la plupart des manifestants qui ont mangé le sandwich Ont jeté le reste (papier, aliments, os, ..etc) sur la voie publique

It is “highly likely” that many demonstrators who ate sandwiches threw the rest (paper, food, bones, etc. ..) on the highway.

Entre Nous Marocains [fr] finds the protest disrespectful to Islam, saying:

« Il y a cinq piliers dans l’islam, il faut pas punir seulement la violation du Ramadan, la loi ne punit pas ceux qui ne prient pas toute l’année ou ceux qui ne vont pas à la Mecque » précise Zineb El Razhoui. A notre tour on répond : Personne ne vous oblige d’être musulmane, mais on vous oblige de respecter les musulmans.

“There are five pillars in Islam, we must not only punish the violation of Ramadan, the law does not punish those who do not pray every time or those who do not go to Mecca,” says Zainab El Razhoui. In our turn we answer: Nobody forces you to be Muslim, but you are forced to respect Muslims.

One commenter, going by the name of Etonnée (Astonished) is puzzled by the audacity shown by the group, and says:

Je sens de la manipulation,
Si vous n'avez pas envie de jeûner, ne le faites pas, vous n'êtes pas obligés de le faire, tout est question de conviction, Dieu n'en sera pas dérangé, des milliards d'autres le font, que sont quelques dizaines à ne pas le faire !!!! Mais une autre question me vient à l'esprit, pourquoi montrer votre refus en public et maintenant ????
Vous demandez le respect de votre liberté en bafouant celle des autres ???

If you do not want to fast, do not, you're not obliged to, everything is for believers, and God will not be disturbed, billions of others fast, there are only tens that don't do it!! But another question comes to my mind, why show your refusal in public now?? You ask for respect for your freedom by infringing that of others??

Amongst the opposition were a few comments in support of the protesters.  One such comment, left on the Morocco Board, was a voice of support:

Hold on, these guys are just trying to bring to public attention a law that seems to infringe on individual liberties. I don't believe they are doing it just to defy the muslim community. If we accept that anybody who is seen eating before the break is reported to authorities. The next thing would be enforcing the 5 prayers a day. Look Moroccans have to mature a bit it is not just making sure that your neighbor will share paradise virgins with you that matters.
It is living freely now and here, that is the priority.

Fasting or praying or any other religious rite are private matters and the state has no business dealing with. Perhaps the oulemas should have a round table about Bars that miraculously vanish during Ramadan and open thereafter, talk about hypocrisy. Or perhaps they should discuss the role of the state in reducing poverty and prostitution as a duty of every muslim by giving zakat to provide for the growing number of this class in Morocco. Using zakat to reduce poverty, now that would be something to make proud of being muslim.

29 comments

  • […] Jillian York at Global Voices has a good round-up of the Moroccan debacle, as has Morocco Board. But here is an account sent to me from one of the participants in the protests against the penalization of public eating during Ramadan: Testimony of Moroccan Non-Faster in Hideout Drastic Government Crackdown […]

  • […] dit verhaal [en] ontstond een vurige, soms verhitte en ook wel agressieve en polariserende discussie in de […]

  • […] — or even a requirement — Ramadan can be a difficult burden to bear. Last year, Global Voices reported on a group of Moroccan activists, the Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (whose French […]

  • […] – il Ramadan può essere un grosso peso da sopportare. Lo scorso anno, Global Voices ha riportato [en, come gli altri link, eccetto ove diversamente indicato] un articolo a proposito di un gruppo […]

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