It’s the happiest and, one could argue, the worst of times for the world’s Muslim population. Although the holy month of Ramadan is filled with joy and celebration (and empathy!) Muslims also have to suffer through fasting during a brutal summer month. Of course, most Muslim’s wouldn’t use the word suffer, since it is supposed to be a worthy and character-building sacrifice.
Interestingly enough, I have been asked a couple of times whether or not I am fasting with my husband. I am not a Muslim (which the people who questioned me know) therefore I am not sure why they would assume that I would partake in fasting. Solidarity with my husband, perhaps? Well, sorry; I love you habibi, but I’m not giving up my water bottle during the month of July! I’m unsure of what this indicates, except that it hearkens back to the idea that the Western “Christian” woman, upon marrying a Muslim man, gives up her own culture because she probably is not so religiously devoted.
Devotion to Islam certainly reaches its apex during Ramadan, and the sometimes overbearing nature of it comes out-where else?- than in Saudi Arabia, which of course takes things to the extreme. A statement from the interior ministry threatened to deport any expatriate caught drinking, smoking or eating in public between dawn and dusk, their jobs and visas being immediately revoked. I must say that I for once agree with the Saudi government; having people stuff their faces and gulp down beverages in front of you while you haven’t ingested anything since the night before would possibly lead one to commit murder….if you had the energy to lift your hands! I agree that Westerners in Muslim-majority countries should be empathetic towards their neighbors and refrain from doing so unless it’s an absolute emergency (let’s say someone fainted). However, the Saudis take things too far with the whole “expulsion from the country” should one commit said “crime” (is it a crime, or more like a taboo? Fair point. Who gets expelled from a country for committing a taboo?)
The Western world, however, is not oblivious to Ramadan. Channel 4 in Britain has commenced to airing the adhan (call to prayer) 5 times a day, much to the chagrin of many Brits who find the action provoking and upsetting. Yet Britain has a sizable Muslim population, so why not include Muslims in the public forum? I don’t think anything like that exists here on a mainstream American TV channel. But that’s not to say that America is ignoring Ramadan either: the local value pages that were sent out here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where I just moved to, wished folks a Happy Ramadan on the cover (see photo above). Bay Ridge has a sizable Muslim population (lots of Egyptians!) and shops everywhere have ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Fanous Ramadan’ signs and decorations in their windows. And President Barack Obama wished Muslims Ramadan Kareem as well.
In the spirit of Ramadan celebration, let’s end with a video clip of Haifa Wehbe guest-starring on a special Ramadan 2013 program Al-Haliqa Ala Waly with Saad Saghriir, a famous comedian who often likes to “interview” people and play jokes on them. Haifa dances and copies what he tells her to do and he makes fun of her Arabic accent. It was a funny program, even if I didn’t understand the Arabic!