Egyptian Police Arresting
Those Who Publicly
Breakfast in Ramadan:
Frown or Jail?
I am deeply troubled by the Egyptian Police going around arresting people who publicly breakfast during the days of Ramadan. Please don't get me wrong. I love traditions and I want everyone, or almost everyone, to be a part of them if possible. I love Ramadan although my waking and sleeping schedule is radically disturbed by it. I enjoy Eid although I seem to put on a few kilos every Eid. A few kilos which I never seem to be able to shed after Eid. I am fond of Christmas and used to play Santa Claus myself. I adore Shemu, an ancient Egyptian Tradition of celebrating Easter, which we now call Sham El Nessim and I even like to paint the eggs and eat salted fish and fresh onions in spring celebrations.
I believe that in a society where most people fast, it would be courteous of those who do not fast to keep a low profile. Be mindful of those who do. I think of this as a form of social courtesy, kind of an extension to the "being nice to your neighbor" creed sort of thing. Yet, I am deeply disturbed by actions of the Egyptian police and not only because there is no law to support their self-appointed role of now enforcing a certain social behavior. It just reminds me of the Saudi Mutawwa, or religious police.
So, although I would just love it if most of us, even all of us, joined in the celebration of the social events and feasts related to our heritage, Islamic, Christian and Egyptian, I still find it unacceptable to enforce this by law. To be truly honest, I am not offended the least bit by those who don't join in celebration or those who eat publicly while others fast. But that's just me. Living in a conservative society which has recently been swept by symptoms of religious hysteria, I can understand that there would be quite a few people who would be offended by those publicly breakfasting during the days of Ramadan.
But being lightly offended is something, yet demanding the arrest and punishment of those who break the social code is another. This is what it is all about, really. Pressures to conform to social code and anger at those who do not conform. It has nothing to do with religion, because religion is a personal, and not a social thing. Only God can judge people for not praying or fasting, but in our case society is playing God. Society wants to punish those who do not conform.
I am most troubled by those supporting these unlawful arrests saying that it will bring order to our streets and preserve social harmony. To those I ask a simple question.
Do you believe, that those who do NOT in fact, celebrate the same social events as you, by observing fasting, or some other religious or social tradition, should be ARRESTED for this?
Please think carefully now. I am not asking you if you LIKE it when they breakfast publicly, I am asking you if you think that they should be ARRESTED for breaking fast publicly. I ask everyone of those supporting punishment, have you always observed every tradition without exception and never done anything that would part from those traditions in your life? In these instances, where you were naughty and broke the traditions, do you think that you should have been jailed if you were caught?
OK, maybe you have always observed the traditions. So, let me ask you in a different way.
We want our children to be nice and mindful of our traditions. Most of us do. I am sure it will help them be socially popular for that. It may impede them in some other areas of growth, creativity and critical thinking, but I must admit that they will be more socially successful if they did that - i.e., observe all or most of the socially accepted traditions.
Now the question; if they, our children, your children, broke some social traditions once or twice what do we do with them? I realize that it may not be nice and may in fact be anti-social to do that. But, for breaking social tradition, without PHYSICALLY causing damage to anyone else, do they deserve, in your opinion to be arrested? Do you agree that your loved ones should be arrested on such charges? Sort of let them suffer, it will teach them a lesson? A lesson of what exactly? Hypocrisy?
Or do you prefer to live in a more tolerant society, whereby those social-code-breakers, who could very well be your relatives or loved ones, who occasionally or even frequently ignore the social traditions, without really causing any serious physical harm to anyone, would be just FROWNED upon by those offended? Yes, be frowned upon - and possibly punished in some social ways, like for instance, that those most offended will not invite them to the next party or refrain from befriending them - yet, they will be tolerated - their rights and freedoms respected? Remember, some of us, those who are most deeply hurt by this mindfulness, will still punish them, in personal ways. They will not only frown at them, but they will also vote for someone else, should those naughty ones decide at some point in the future to run for mayor or some other public office.
Again, I am not asking you to LIKE what they do; I am asking you a TOTALLY different question. I am asking you if you believe that they should be ARRESTED. Lose their Freedom even for a few hours for publicly breaking fast during the days of Ramadan.
So, what should it be?
Frown or Jail?
Tolerance ... or COERCION?
A moderate society or tightly governed one where laws and jail are used to enforce social behavior in matters which are really considered well within the domain of personal freedom??
Now, what shall it be?
"I am not asking you to be exactly like me. I am asking you to stop forcing me to be exactly like you."