Intolerance in Ramazan: A new phenomenon or a revision of Zia’s era?

Published: August 9, 2012
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Does the word 'restrain' only mean refraining from eating and drinking while negating other people from their right to move about freely around you and do what they please? PHOTO: AFP

The instances of lack of tolerance this Ramazan have been too many to account for. Either Pakistan has glided one step further in achieving the state of ‘piety’ during this Ramazan or I have grown up enough to actually observe and notice these loathsome antics.

I don’t know why this Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance had to come into action all of a sudden because almost all my life I’ve witnessed instances of tolerance and forbearance during this holy month. While we observe the lack of tolerance of not letting people eat freely during fasting hours, I remind myself of those non-Muslim friends of mine from school who used to fast during the month of Ramazan, purely out of respect of the religion. They would fast on all Fridays, and on the 21st and 27th Ramazan; as it is believed that they are “Zyada barkat walay Rozay” (more blessed fasting days) . We would invite them to our Iftar parties and they would join us happily and enthusiastically.

Our schools, colleges and universities would also keep their canteens and cafés open, for non-Muslims as well as for Muslims who would not be fasting (which is a win-win situation for both, the cafés and the customer).

I know of that tolerant part of Pakistan where we would play Holi with our non-Muslim friends and send them dishes for Iftari as we would to our other neighbours and Biriyani on Eid day. No one made a fuss or frowned when they would send their home-made Mithai (sweets) to us on Diwali, not once thinking that ‘Muslims’ won’t eat their food. Then would come Eidul Azha and we would send the mutton from the sacrifice to our non-Muslim friends while taking care that no beef is packed for them mistakenly to avoid offending them in any way. On the ninth and tenth of Muharram, these friends would send us “Channay” (chick peas) and would share our mourning.

Scanning the news for today, I found the 60 Hindu families have decided to migrate to India, so sick are they of having been endlessly persecuted in this country that claims to make space to its minorities.

I grew up in a surrounding where it was only natural for  people from different religions, backgrounds and communities to understand and respect each other’s beliefs and fundamentals and share with each other whatever happiness, celebration or grief we experienced. This is what made us live peacefully and harmoniously.

But it looks as if the times have changed. Not only has it become difficult for non-Muslims to move about (eat and drink) freely during Ramazan, with the Ramazan Ordinance in action and police been given the authority to ‘raid’ the places, it has become extremely difficult for anyone not fasting to get away with the situation. For me this looks like a new phenomenon since I had not been a part of such fanaticism before but really it is a kind of revision of the dark rule of  Ziaul Haq in whose regime this biased and solely subjective Ordinance was given a statutory form.

Given the current scenario, I would only ask two questions here: Does the Holy month of Ramazan not teach us to show restrain and tolerance? Does the word ‘restrain’ only mean refraining from eating and drinking while negating other people from their right to move about freely around you and do what they please?

I think the essence of Ramazan is far greater than refraining from eating and drinking; it has a lot more to do with Huqooq-ul-ibad (rights of people) than Huqooq-Allah (rights of God). Anyone can please God by offering prayers five times but what actually pleases Him is watching us please His people. So lets not forget to respect are fellow Pakistanis and their beliefs, because this month teaches us to be selfless and giving, not demanding and selfish.

Have you experienced any intolerance this Ramazan?

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Paras.Abbasi

Paras Abbasi

The author is an IBA grad currently working in the public monetary sector. She is an avid reader, book reviewer and short-story writer who blogs at www.ofcoffeeconversations.wordpress.com and @ofcoffeeconversations on Instagram.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Dr Shankar Vankwani

    it is true many hindus still used to remain fast on 27th of Ramzan.Recommend

  • Raw is War

    I have few Muslim friends in India. They do not follow the fasting during Ramzan. Does it make them bad Muslims? I am sure many Pakistani Muslims do not want to Fast. Why should Pakistani government do such stupid things? If somebody wants to eat- even if it is a Muslim, it is his choice. Which shows Pakistanis do not have basic liberties. This is like Roza forced upon you. Recommend

  • sherry

    well written Recommend

  • Dani

    Why doesn’t the liberal PPP repeal the ordinance promulgated by Mullah Zia?Recommend

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    well writte, but why is the talk always about intolerance towards minorities, why do people forget about non practising or not religous muslims, were equally on the recieving end of persecution thanks to wana be wahabi-isation of Pakistan. My message to everyone reading this, reject Wahabism regardless of the costs even if it is being thrown at u in your own home, charity begins at home.Recommend

  • Imran

    Dear paras

    I m sorry to say that either you are unaware of the facts or you choose to ignore them, I agree we a not a very liberal country but we are tolerant, tolerant to the fact that all five start hotels are serving lunches Just the other day I was watching on news that lunch is easily available at cannot station in the afternoon

    Do you really think those 60 families are leaving because food is not available during Ramzan ? Have you ever heard of “home cooked food” can’t they cook in their own homes

    Sadly you have not checked how many Muslim families are migrating from Pakistan they are in hundreds if not in thousands Recommend

  • sami

    Im studying for PhD in Europe. My comment would be bitter for Pakistanis but truth is that Pakistanis are the most immature and intolerant nation of the world. Yeah that’s a fact and we have to face it. I did Master degree and now studying for Doctoral so I am saying that on my 5 years of experience living abroad. I mean, pakistanis always would poke their nose in your religious matters. Examples
    tum itna jummo pa q nahi a rahay? adeel na to jumma pa na ana ki qasam kha rukhi ha ? oye tumhain pta ha sami rozay he nahi rukhta? Oay logo kamran ko maina jhatka murghi khatay hua pakra ha taubah astagfar.
    I am a Muslim even I am being prosecuted, i wonder what is the plight of Hindues of my country. Irony is that the same guy talking to you about islam and all that will be killing time on the nude beach while fasting. sorry to say, pakistanis are pseudoislamic fanatics. Recommend

  • sohaib

    not only hindus but muslims are also facing the same problem of lawlessness and crimes. its not intolerance or something related to religion.. its the failure of police and other law enforcement agencies, poor economy, poverty ,power cuts, corrupt government which makes the dream of prosperous pakistan mere a dream..sorry but muslims also don’t want to live here anymore.. Recommend

  • Sayyed Mehdi

    @Dani

    Because the mullahs planted by Zia go haywire when somebody tries to repeal the nonsense.Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    As soon as the ramazan is coming in hotter months, more and more Pakistanies are trying to make lame excuses for not having a fast.

    Second blog with the same claim, why canteens are not open: bibi: school, colleges and universities are closed, this is the reason for not opening them

    Everything is freely available for everyone in the market, markets are open, why you do not buy and eat in your houses. Why you want restaurants to be remain open when only few of you want to eat. Why you people do not respect the majorities when you expect them to respect your rights.

    People in our homes who are unable to have a fast for number of reasons, are not complaining, they are still eating and without any problem. Why you want to eat infront of everyone just to show that you are liberal

    …………………………………………………. Recommend

  • Faisal

    Dear Paras and all the “Roza Khors” Be patient for ten days more so that you wouldn’t have to be ashamed of eating or drinking at any public place any longer EID Mubarak to u all !!Recommend

  • Amrita

    I never saw the face of Pakistan you are talking about…being a non-practising Muslim is probably worse than being a non-Muslim…growing up every day very Ramzan I would be told, tumhain pata hai rozadaaron k saamne khane se gunah hota hai. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Sami

    That is the most absurd thing we have seen here. All of us know how Muslims are discriminated against in Europe and America. What have you done against that? Is it not yoru duty to fight to protect the good name of Islam? Instead of performing your own duty, as Allah requires you to do, you are busy throwing mud on Pakistan – the land that gave you sustenance. Just terrible attitude.Recommend

  • Umber

    Nice and articulate piece of writing Paras Thank you for making us so proud! :) However, i can not stop myself from differing with you on some aspects. I have been working in the food industry for past 4 months and trust me most of the restaurants are open and serving food at day time. Only those restaurants where the owner or the management regularly observes 30 day tarwai or our more particular about their ramzan ibadaats, close the restaurants for the entire month but that percentage is very low. All the bakeries are open at 3:00 in the day because thats when the samosa and pakora etc selling starts. I can give you several names where anyone can go and have food during fasting hours. So it is a little unfair to say that non-Muslims and Muslims not observing fasts are out of options.

    Somethings are done out of respect rather than obligation for instance when someone arrives at our homes specially elderly ones, we tend to stand and greet them in their honour. However there is no rule or law mentioned any where that we must do that but thats our way of showing respect. Not eating in front of the person fasting is just our cultural norm of respecting the one who is fasting and i do not see what is wrong in it? We can totally put non muslims out of the equation they have simply no obligations, and no one has the right to judge or force them, but for at least the muslims not fasting does it take a lot for them to show some respect and eat at their homes ? Nobody is asking them why they haven’t kept a fast but why go all public?

    As Muslims lets fast (Unless you valid grounds) and why not? Why give up on the second fundamental pillar of Islam?

    Disclaimer: This is not in favour of ehtiram-e-roza ordinance because i have no knowledge about the law and government’s reason or logic for it.Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD OMAR

    Intolerance in Ramazan: A new phenomenon or a revision of Zia’s era?

    first Question was there any type of intolerance exist before zia regime ?

    2nd question PPP leftist Party after Zia 2 years, then again 3 years, then musharraf ‘s 7 years then again PPP say 5 years . . . total 17 years what these regimes done so far ?

    why all the time bashing, blaming Zia . . . he died , forget him plz . . . clarify here how many years needed to be eliminate intolerance ? Recommend

  • Danish Atif

    Its not about eating or not eating in public but the only thing is that we should have respect in our hearts. Islam teaches us some guidelines which in any way should not be compromised. Recommend

  • Jamal

    @Raw is War:

    When there are rules and regulation, there are Dos and Donts. It is obligatory to pay Tax and Zakat. It is must to stop at Red traffic light . Similarly it is MUST to fast in RamazanRecommend

  • Big Rizvi

    Not too long ago. I went to Hardee’s to get some food for the family. The whole restraunt was cramed to the door and when the people broke the fast of Ramadan. They devoured thier food with such greed that not even a vacuum cleaner would pick up dirt that fast. When they were done, they got up again and repeated the same thing, thier hunger hardly satisfied. Even when the fast is getting to thier heads, everyone starts to drive like nuts. It is insane, what will all the foreigners visiting Pakistan have to say about this?Recommend

  • Vikram

    Author” Anyone can please God by offering prayers five times but what actually pleases Him is watching us please His people.”

    I did not know people pray 5 times a day to please God. How do you know what actually pleases God? Who are His people?Recommend

  • Vikram

    @sohaib: “not only hindus but muslims are also facing the same problem of lawlessness and crimes”

    I agree but minorities like Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus are facing religious persecution. Even Shais and Ahmadis feel powerless in Pakistan. Hindus being a very small minoirty have to live in fear all the time. Hindus did not move because of Ramadan fasting, they moved because government is unable to provide them with secure life.where they can enjoy freedom of religion.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Umber:”Somethings are done out of respect rather than obligation for instance when someone arrives at our homes specially elderly ones, we tend to stand and greet them in their honour. However there is no rule or law mentioned any where that we must do that but thats our way of showing respect. Not eating in front of the person fasting is just our cultural norm of respecting the one who is fasting and i do not see what is wrong in it?”

    Comparing respect for elderly with not eating in front of others is like comparing apples and oranges. Eating is Ok when Muslims are not fasting, but all of a sudden it becomes disrespectful if Muslims are fasting.

    Dubai has 50% non-Muslims but laws ban restaurants from serving food or eating in front of others.Just shows because 50% Muslims who own the country are fasting (suffering), 50% non-Muslims should benot be allowed to eat out or in front of them

    The Foreign Office (UK) has warned Britons holidaying in Dubai this summer that eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan could land them in prison.

    If some one is fasting for love of God I wonder why he/she will care if some one else is eating or not.

    Many Hindus fast once or twice a week or for months at a time. If a woman is fasting she cooks for the family with love and serves the food to her family and feels happy doing that. Every one eats in front of her..Recommend

  • Reddy

    oh,cut the crap hindus fast on friday for different reasons than you are stating here,it’s the day of lakshmi, goddess of prosperity ,if your state had promoted interfaith, multiculturalism instead of terrorism you would have known what hindus do or don’t ,some hindus in pakistan do fast cuz they have no option left otherwise they have to face the defenders of faith,better don’t Romanticize the sad state affairs.Recommend

  • Reddy

    @kaalchakra: they are being hated everywhere for their trademark antics, especially pakistani muslims like being the most hated community in the world,people like you take pride in it.Recommend

  • Ansari

    A real pathetic piece from a secular extremist. One thing about people like Paras is really strange, these secular extremists talk about intolerance in right wing masses whereas, in actual, secular extremists like Paras exhibit the height of intolerance. On one hand, secular extremists talk of majority rule, on the other hand they can’t respect the religious emotions of majority. This hypocritical behavior of secular extremists clarifies that they are shallow thinkers and their thoughts are based on rage against boundary lines drawn by Allah SWT. They have superficial thinking and their arguments are mostly baseless. These secular extremists will not mind ban on Hijab in France and will use majority rule to support their argument, but when it comes to Ramadan and Muslims, they simply can’t live with the religious beliefs of majority. Secular extremists are way more dangerous than their religious counterparts. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Reddy,

    You can have the love of people – of crooks, criminals, thieves, polytheists and atheists. What do I care if people hate me? But since Allah loves me, perpetual bliss is mine.Recommend

  • Shan

    I am glad that this topic has been brought up . I remember in childhood living in Karachi, Month of Ramzan was the time to share, respect and forgive. Despite of the fact that I am a Christian I use to enjoy those days. I hardly remember if my mother ever made dinner in Ramzan, because our Muslim friends use to send ifftari for us. I remember aunties calling my mother to taste ifftari if the flavor is right and mother helping them to cook ifftari. I remember me helping my Muslim friends to distribute ifftari so that we can have more time to play. But the memories of those good old days have been faded by the Intolerance, disrespect and the desire to control others.

    In my opinion this ordinance is one of the most “nonsense ordinances” I came across, because I would respect Ramzan, and I do, because my Muslim friend respect it not because an ordinance force me to do so. People might not eat or drink during Ramzan but they won’t respect it in actual because of this ordinance.Recommend

  • Reddy

    @kaalchakra: ha ha,then embrace it like your abba jan osama did ,who is by the way living in a very un Islamic environment…you can at least join in his quest to create first ever pious 100% islamic burqa clad fish.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    @Sami,

    You studied in Europe, no? Why do Europeans care about what dress Muslim women wear? Why do they care about minarets? Why don’t you ever call Europeans as “intolerant’ for being such “nosy people”?Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    @Reddy,

    I see what “if your state had promoted interfaith, multiculturalism instead of terrorism” led you to become:

    “first ever pious 100% islamic burqa clad fish.”

    Rabid. Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Zeeshan: “You studied in Europe, no? Why do Europeans care about what dress Muslim women wear? Why do they care about minarets? Why don’t you ever call Europeans as “intolerant’ for being such “nosy people”?”

    Even after 1400 years of Islam Muslims themselves don’t agree on what is proper Hijab.

    Why do you care about what Ahmadis or Shias do? Why Sunnis are killing Shias almost every day? Ahmadis have total freedom to do what they want to do in countries like UK and India.

    Real intolerant are Muslim countries which don’t allow people non-Muslims to practice their religions openly. Countries like Pakistan used talibans to force Sikhs out of Afghanistan. Pakistani ISI used talibans to destroy Buddah statues. Christians can be arrested for talking about their religion in many Muslim countries

    Most Muslim women in USA don’t wear any Hijab. A few Muslim women with insecure families/husbands are forced to wear hijab. A few Muslim girls have been killed for not wearing hijab and/or dating non-Muslims in USA and CannadaRecommend

  • Vikram

    @Imran: “Sadly you have not checked how many Muslim families are migrating from Pakistan they are in hundreds if not in thousands”

    Why are Pakistanis migrating? What is the reason?Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Ansari: They can’t respect the religious emotions of majority.

    how can people respect your “religious emotions”?

    You are fasting to get “rewards” for youself. Are you willing to share those rewards with non-Muslims who are also suffering for not being able to eat in front of you?

    Is any one stopping you from fasting or doing your religious duties?
    You guys are just not eating for few hours then go eatt double in the evening.
    You are trying to make it look like, you have climbed mount everest.
    You want every one to say, look at these pious Muslims how much sacrifice these people are making

    What boundries are drawn by Allah SWT in regard to subject of this blog?

    This hypocritical behavior of secular extremists clarifies that they are shallow thinkers and their thoughts are based on rage against boundary lines drawn by Allah SWT. They have superficial thinking and their arguments are mostly baseless. These secular extremists will not mind ban on Hijab in France and will use majority rule to support their argument, but when it comes to Ramadan and Muslims, they simply can’t live with the religious beliefs of majority. Secular extremists are way more dangerous than their religious counterparts.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    @Vikram,

    It’s up to Muslims to decide about hijab and not you. Muslims don’t get to decide whether you should be eating beef by citing your past.

    “Why do you care about what Ahmadis or Shias do? Why Sunnis are killing Shias almost every day? Ahmadis have total freedom to do what they want to do in countries like UK and India.”

    Some Muslims do care what Ahmadis or Shias do because their beliefs and rituals decide whether they fall into the category of Muslims. Diversity is accepted in Islam as long as you bound yourself within that border. Saying “sunnis are killing Shias almost every day” is tantamount of saying “Indians are killing Indians each other every day” by citing data with little critical thinking involved. Ahmadis do not have total freedom in UK or India. They are given some space as long as they know their space. UK and India persecute and insult the whole Muslims as one. They do not need to bother about the debates within Islam. All Muslims are alike for them. It’s because you are an Indian that you failed to see the persecution Muslims are enduring there.

    “Real intolerant are Muslim countries which don’t allow people non-Muslims to practice their religions openly. Countries like Pakistan used talibans to force Sikhs out of Afghanistan. Pakistani ISI used talibans to destroy Buddah statues. Christians can be arrested for talking about their religion in many Muslim countries”

    Pakistan has no interest in expelling Sikhs from Afghanistan or destroying the statue of Buddha. The Taliban might have that interest but we don’t. Countries like yours on the other hand have long history of massacring minorities. One does not need to look at Taliban to see persecutions of Sikhs or Christians or destruction of a religious edifice. 1984. Delhi. 1992. Babri mosque. 2008. Orissa. Sound familiar?

    “Most Muslim women in USA don’t wear any Hijab. A few Muslim women with insecure families/husbands are forced to wear hijab. A few Muslim girls have been killed for not wearing hijab and/or dating non-Muslims in USA and Cannada”

    again, it’s not up to you to judge a woman’s decision to wear hijab. I am pretty sure you don’t want Muslims to judge your wife/sisters/daughters’ choice of clothing. Those women killed could be found in your own country. Furthermore, your educated elites are known to use the latest technology to abort baby girls. So, Vikram, please look at your own country and society.Recommend

  • Annie

    @Reddy:
    The author is talking about the non-muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan. I have witnessed this too, Hindus fasting on Ramadan fridays for the respect of Ramadan. It’s not about their own gods. Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    With all due respect I would like to pose a question to the author, as a non muslim it is difficult for me to understand when certain people say that ‘restraint should be followed during the month of Ramazan’ or such violence should not have been committed in the holy month of Ramazan. What is this supposed to mean? Acts of violence committed beyond Ramazan are any less condemnable than acts performed during Ramazan? No offence intended.Recommend

  • Nishant

    @Vikram:
    would like to add one thing

    the first country to ban “hijab” or headscarf was Turkey…!Recommend

  • umer

    Law should not be there, fasting is an individual prayer, In a perfect world we would allow our minorities to eat and minorities would return the respect by not eating publicly.Recommend

  • http://www.google.com/ Jenay

    Taking the ovreivew, this post is first classRecommend