Why should non-Muslims bear the brunt of your compulsion to fast in Ramazan?

Published: June 13, 2016
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An 80-year-old non-Muslim man, Gokal Das was beaten up severely because he was found eating rice 40 minutes before iftar time. PHOTO: EXPRESS

How many times have you gone for a dinner to a restaurant and then told the management to get rid of the beggars outside looking in through the window? If not that, then how many times have you gone to buy a kebab roll with a hungry child staring at you? How many times did you react in an irritating manner saying,

“It’s hard to even buy a roll now without them bothering me!”

Let’s dial it down even more, how many times have you eaten something knowing very well that there are people right outside the restaurant who can’t even afford a single meal?

Realise it or not, we have meals all the time while many go hungry. We eat food day in and day out while others are starving.

Then comes the month of Ramazan where one of the many things we aim to do is learn how the poor feel. To learn about their hunger so we can do more for them. To learn to empathise.

Does that happen?

Everything on TV is just about food.

Most of the people fasting just talk about food. Sehri is not even finished, and what will be the menu for iftari and dinner is already being discussed. Half the day at home is either spent sleeping or cooking. Others start to slack where work is concerned.

I thought the point of Ramazan was to lead a normal life, do everything while fasting.

In 1981, Ziaul Haq passed the Ethram-e-Ramazan Ordinance which stated that anyone eating in public place will be fined and/or jailed for three months.

That meant no serving food in certain public places either. Only hospitals, railway stations, trains, airports, or school canteens for children would be exempt.

Why?

Why is it that when it is our turn to not eat, we force others not to do so either? Where was this ehtaram (respect) when we were eating in front of the hungry? Where is this ehtaram when we go out to eat and make our maids sit in the corner while we finish?

There are many reasons why another person might not be fasting; old age, illness, medicines, about to travel, non-Muslim, maybe he did not feel like it. The matter is between him and God. So why do we impose what we are doing on others too?

And is our faith really that weak that the sight of another person eating would make us jump on their food and start munching? Do we have no self-control whatsoever?  Our stomachs would growl so loudly that it would break everyone’s fast including ours? That weak?

Apparently it is. Every year stories go viral about how someone beat up another person because they were “caught” eating.

Yesterday in Ghotki, an 80-year-old non-Muslim man, Gokal Das was beaten up severely because he was found eating rice 40 minutes before iftar time.

He was 80-years-old!

Let that sink in. Eighty!

Even our own grandparents at home don’t fast at this age. Do we go around beating them up too?

And to make matters worse, he was assaulted by a policeman. One who is supposed to protect the citizens. He has since been arrested but why would anyone inflict such violence for such a small matter?

Pakistan is not the only country where such things happen. In Iran, a judge once sentenced a Christian man to have his lips burnt with a cigarette because he ate in Ramazan. This punishment was carried out in the open in Kermanshah. Five other men, this time Muslim, were also flogged with 70 lashes for not fasting.

I guess in Pakistan, we should be glad that it is not the government that imposes such punishments, just over zealous crazy people, and in the end the culprits are sent to jail.

In Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the rule is that anyone found eating will be flogged, jailed and/or deported.

It’s the month for peace, for reflection, for charity, for empathy. Where are all those things? Why do we have in place this notion of superiority where we impose what we are doing on others?

Whatever happened to the verse regarding no compulsion in religion?

This line should be plastered all over Pakistan to serve as a reminder to all those who impose their will upon others, so they can’t forget – There is no compulsion in religion!

That being said, this is not the Pakistan that Jinnah envisioned.

Shamila Ghyas

Shamila Ghyas

The writer is the author of the Aoife and Demon series. She also writes for Khabaristan Times, The Nation, Express Tribune, Dawn and other publications. She can be reached at @ShamilaGhyas (twitter.com/ShamilaGhyas) and www.facebook.com/shamilaghyas

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