The Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported last week that six people have been arrested in the West Bank and one of them sentenced to a month in prison for “desecrating the holiness of the month of Ramadan by eating in public during daytime.” “Our streets are Islamic,” said the chairman of the Palestinian sharia court, and legislation should be enacted to “severely punish” anyone who eats publicly during the Muslim holy month.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and under Islamic law, eating and drinking, smoking, and sexual relations are prohibited from sunrise until sunset during that month. According to the Times of Israel, article 274 of the Palestinian penal code states that citizens who violate Ramadan by eating or smoking in public can be punished by a month in prison or a fine of 15 Jordanian dinars – about 21 U.S. dollars.
In addition to his warning about the gravity of violating Ramadan, Sheikh Ida’is, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Supreme Court for Sharia Law, said even non-Muslims and those who cannot fast for health reasons should be prohibited from eating in public. He explained in a Palestinian TV interview:
We have to monitor the streets and severely punish anyone who [eats] in public during Ramadan, and this is the responsibility of the security forces. Our streets are Islamic, praise Allah. Any person caught committing this sin in public during Ramadan has to be imprisoned until the end of Ramadan, as an example to others. I call upon others [non-Muslims] to be considerate of Muslims’ feelings.
Approximately 10 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank are Christian, so presumably those Christians and other infidels are expected to respect Muslim feelings at risk of being thrown in jail or, if the sheikh gets his way, of more severe penalties. The host of that same TV program said:
If someone doesn’t fast for some reason [during Ramadan] because he follows a different religion or has health reasons, it’s his right. However, he breaks the spirit of Ramadan by eating or drinking in public or at work.
And anyone, even non-Muslims, “breaking the spirit of Ramadan” is considered to have committed a serious offense against Islam itself. The Egypt Independent reported on a fatwa delivered last week by Dar al-Ifta, a centuries-old institute within Cairo’s Al-Azhar University that issues sharia-based religious opinions, declaring that authorities take steps to ensure that no one, including non-Muslims, openly violates the fast in public places. The fatwa reads, in part, that such an act
is not a personal freedom, but a form of chaos and an attack on the sanctity of Islam. Those who openly break the fast during Ramadan commit an overt sin, which is forbidden. It also goes against public taste in a Muslim country, and is a clear violation of the sanctity of the community and respect for religious freedoms. [Emphasis added]
In Saudi Arabia too, authorities issued their standard Ramadan warning this year to all non-Muslim foreigners to “show consideration for feelings of Muslims” and “preserve the sacred Islamic rituals” by observing the fast in public until the end of the month; otherwise, a ministry statement said, Saudi authorities will cancel violators’ work contracts and expel them.