A Growing Movement against Imposed Ramadan

By Souad Sbai

In the Maghreb, “anti-Ramadan” associations, such as the Free Thinkers Association, are asking to remove any legal obligations to celebrate the end of the month of fasting. A precept imposed by force loses its value and symbolic meaning. Those who practice it with conviction are decreasing, even in Muslim countries such as Morocco.

In Maghreb, anti-Ramadan associations are winning the battle. The Association of Free Thinkers, the committee #Fater pour la défense of the liberté des non-je-neurs (#Fater for the defense of the freedom of those who do not fast), and many other organizations gathered under the hashtag #MouchBessif, are striving for the acknowledgement of the freedom to choose whether to respect these feast or not. The Masayminch movement in Morocco is also pursuing the same goal.

The motto “not necessarily” means that a precept imposed by force loses its value and symbolic significance, even before the religious one. Indeed, imposing precepts by force is not acceptable in a State having secularism as cornerstone.

We are in the middle of Ramadan, and their efforts to make the religious dimension coincide with that of individual freedoms are bearing fruits that were considered unthinkable until some time ago. The rate of people who fast during the month of Ramadan has fallen below 55 percent. In particular, the middle and upper class and the youth have realized that the spiritual dimension has weakened.

Until recently, you were in trouble if surprised while eating. You could even be arrested, and that is actually pushing the faithful away from respecting this precept: if it is imposed, what is its value?

For example, many students do not fast with the excuse they have to study and take exams. The number of bars and clubs that remain open is increasing, showing how the grip is gradually lessening. Non-Ramadan is tolerated and the trend is reversing.

The percentage remains high in the mosques led by the radicals, where there is an extremely strict control over the faithful, but secularism is expanding inexorably.

In addition, many people no longer know Ramadan’s true origin, which refers back to the commemoration of the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet. Fasting became mandatory subsequently during the so called month of Sha’ban, two years after the migration of the Muslims from Mecca to Medina.

But if you ask many people about the true origin of Ramadan, you would receive the most awkward explanations: from the purification of the body to superstition and to the observation whereby “everybody does it.”

In the Maghreb, problems related to the rise of prices and cost of living emerge during Ramadan, and that discourages the respect of these feast even more.

In Italy, the situation is not very different. In the community of Maghrebi origin, the rates of those who abstained from Ramadan reached 85 percent, and even here the motivations are varied: work, heat, or simply the decline in affection for this celebration.

There are also those who fast because they are forced to do so. Radicalism is a reality today, so many prefer to do Ramadan to avoid being accused of being “bad faithful.”

Unlike in Italy, where some mosques remain open even at night, the charm of Ramadan, especially in the Arab world, remains intact in the atmosphere on the streets at night.

When the day come to an end, people go out to meet each other and keep celebrating. This is another piece of the Arab world that is changing and is expressing the desire to live freely. With or without Ramadan.