Ramadan is a time of celebration and contemplation. Though I’m agnostic myself -well more wavering atheist like to be honest- who looks for and finds his spiritual inspiration elsewhere, I think the concept is beautiful and admirable.
The Muslim minority in North-West Europe is now fasting just like Muslims all over the world. But it probably is harder here than elsewhere because they are living in a social environment that doesn’t differentiate between this month and the rest of the year. Moreover they only have eight hours a day to eat, drink and sleep in our urban 24/7 economy. After all it’s August the first and today’s sunrise was at 06.03 in the morning while the sun will set at 21.29. Most of all I pity the Moroccan Olympic football squad - the team won’t be able survive the first round in London because of sheer exhaustion.
The fasting tradition is worth preserving. The great Dutch poet Lucebert wrote “All things of value are vulnerable” (“Alles van waarde is weerloos“). I second that. It applies to poetry, music and art. To empathy, compassion and love. To neighbourliness, friendship and generosity. And to freedom, justice and peace. Treasures of mankind which, I assume, also are among the core morals of any religion. Especially of those metaphysical systems which call themselves a religion of peace. So in my arithmetic Jews, Christians and Muslims by definition should protect these vulnerable values. The same way as these religions usually are being protected themselves.
But unfortunately that’s not common practice among all believers.
First of all know-it-alls are annoying people and abundant among believers (as well as among atheists I should add). Even worse are those who try to ram their grandiose or petty truths through your throat though. If you would like to know, this singer-songwriter tells exactly what I think about them. But worst of all are the likes of Habib Bahar and his Rasulullah Defenders’ Council gang who “defend” their rigid core religious convictions by aggressively and violently eliminating deviant opinions and habits.They like to beat “respect” for their specific interpretation of faith into whatever dissenters they perceive. Ramadan obviously is a select opportunity and justification to give rise to their rage and to let different-believers and non-believers know that they have no choice but to comply. The café raid in South Jakarta is proof: “It is usual for me and my followers to raid sinful places during Ramadhan. If there are sinners who get drunk we have to act”, Habib said. It’s pretty similar to FPI gang-leader Habib Al Habsyi’s announcement in Cirebon. He stated they will continue raiding nightclubs even though the city’s mayor swore he himself would take care of closing them. It looks like they manage to impose their will on a secular state and a plural and multicultural society.
This state of mind and behaviour is not quite the spirit of a religion of peace and tolerance. Bullying people holding different views to make them obey should be off limits to genuine believers in my perception. Yet apparently their strategy is effective. The secular government gives in and opts for appeasement – it even has grown to be a habit to pre-emptively limit operational hours of nightclubs during Ramadan. The Cirebon mayor didn’t push Police and prosecutor to arrest Habib for illegally inciting people, but timidly promised he gladly would do the job himself. To no avail- FPI still maintains it’s threats. It behaves as an unassailable autonomous group of vigilantes. And though there is some feeble protest, a huge public outcry and backlash are not in sight. Well not quite; Police caught a few of Habib’s gang members. Yet the obvious and overwhelming public leniency is amazing.
I wonder: where is liberal Islam? Who will help these overzealous pious (???) gangs to mend their ways?
As is it today this year’s Ramadan resembles last year’s Ramadan and the one of the previous year. I’m afraid the month of fasting threatens to gradually become a time of raiding rather than praying. Which is not quite the original objective.