Commentary on Ramadan from Yasaman Bayani, Human Rights Activist who we interviewed on Bread and Roses recently.
The month of Ramadan, considered holy by Muslims, has start and we hear of people murdered by the ISIS (the Islamic State) or punished by different governments around the world imposing the religious laws on non-abiding people. For me who had to live under the reign of Islamic laws this brings many memories. During the month of Ramadan, we are deprived of one of our basic human rights: the right to eat in public. Eating, drinking and smoking in public is outlawed from dawn to dusk during this month and in countries like Iran, leads to arrest of the “offender” or sinner. At my university the cafeteria was closed for the whole month of Ramadan. It would only provide dinner after dusk. Most restaurants would also work in limited capacity. Otherwise they face threat and other harsh consequences by the religious authorities.
I have talked to many refugees and immigrants who have come to live in Canada and have asked them about their experiences in the month of Ramadan. Mahtab came to Vancouver as a refugee from Iran (Iran is officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran). She told me her life story of being raised as the first child to a Muslim family in the southern city of Abadan and her experience in the month of Ramadan:
“For me it was the month of torture. My father was a worker and we lived in poverty. I was the first child and my father had decided to raise me as a Muslim woman. He woke me up before the dawn to eat. Then I was forbidden to eat until the dusk. I had no appetite to eat at 4:00 a.m. I hated to wake up that early in the morning. Then I had to go to school and refrain from eating and drinking for the whole day. I always lost a lot of weight during the month of Ramadan. At night, after breaking our fast and eating, my mother would take me to religious gathering that where filled with propaganda in favour of fasting. The mullas (Muslim clergy) who preached us about Ramadan told horror stories of what would happen to us if we refused to fast. We would all go to hell and burn in a ferocious fire. There were also snakes with seven heads that would attack non-fasting sinners and eat them as the mullas preached.
There were times that I was so hungry that I would eat something in hiding- a subversive act of sin. I felt guilty afterwards. I also had the most horrifying nightmares. I dreamt of being in a terribly hot place surrounded by aggressive snakes attempting to capture me. I would wake up with screams and my mother and aunts would spray cold water on me to calm me down. I cried and confessed that I ate while fasting and my mother sympathetically said to me “Dear daughter, why did you eat?”
When I was in grade 8 or 9, I decided that all of these fasting rituals and the Islamic teachings are too oppressive for me. I stopped practicing them.” [Read more…]