Wednesday, July 7, 2010

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A Reflection on Drama-Loving Islam

Being a Lebanese citizen, living amongst Muslim people—many of whom are great people by the way, I have come to learn that Islam is a drama-loving religion. In order to explain what I mean by that, I will give an example of one concept which is common to many Muslims, and which I have been encountering ever since I was in middle-school. Even at that young age, I was able to recognize the drama that accompanied the religious lent which my friends were forced to “participate” into, by their parents.

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, during which they fast and are encouraged to help others and be more charitable. They abstain from ingesting anything—food, water, juice and even cigarette smoke—from sunrise till sundown. The two behaviors which Muslims display during this month, that have made me draw the above stated conclusions are the way fasting individuals make other people, who are not fasting, feel as if they are obliged to respect them, and even sympathize with them, by not eating or drinking in front of them. It is as if others should appreciate the “hardship” they are experiencing, and for some reason they ought to be grateful to them (however I’m not sure what for!)     

OvereatingThe other idea related to the month of Ramadan, which not only makes realize how dramatic this religion is, but also hypocritical, is the whole “Iftar” thing (or the eating frenzy which takes place after sundown). During this month, when the evening prayers announce the setting of the sun—and therefore the end of the daily fasting period, Muslims dive into their dishes of soup, salads, appetizers, entrees, main courses (note the plural), deserts and non-alcoholic beverages. Every day a magnificent feast is devoured after the not-so-long hours of fasting. While indeed, many devout Muslims do in fact deem this holy month as a time for increased reverence and worship, many others seem to regard it as a series of eating holidays.

Ramadan IftarI have been invited to many Iftars by my Muslim friends, and what I remember the most from these “eat-till-you-burst” food festivals is how when you look at the way many of the attendees were eating, you will get the impression that you are looking at uncivilized savages, who had been starving to death for weeks. From a religious perspective, it makes you wonder: isn’t fasting supposed to symbolize a will to sacrifice as well as some sort of giving-up some of life’s pleasures—such as overeating? I’m not sure how excessive eating would fit this description. And by the way, it doesn’t stop there; those same folks set their alarms minutes before sunrise in order to fuel-up furthermore on foods that have probably remained from the “more than you can eat” buffets. They stuff their still-full stomachs with as much food as they can and wash it all down with a lot of liquids, in preparation for the upcoming “terrible” foodless hours.

I can’t help but wonder how come many normal people remain without food or water for more than half the day, not because they are fasting, but simply because they are busy at work or in school. And the interesting idea is that, unlike the overzealous Muslims, you will not catch them overdosing on food, when they finally grab a normal meal.

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