Freedom to refuse

Here’s my July column for the Freethinker, on the Freethinker’s shiny new website.

Ramadan clearly is widely treated as compulsory, sometimes at the state level and much more at the familial level (which tends to bleed into the neighborhood and the “community” – the notional, non-physical community as well as the literal neighborhood-surrounding one).

I consider this worrying, although I don’t think much can be done about it beyond a slow non-coercive persuasion. I do think it’s worrying that to obey a religious “command” parents can compel their older (past puberty) children to go without food and water from sunrise to sunset.

If that were punishment it would be considered abusive, and perhaps needing intervention by child protection agencies. Parents aren’t normally supposed to make their children go without water and food for 12, 15, 20 daylight hours for a month. Taking away sweets is one thing, taking away all food and drink is another.

Well isn’t it? Shouldn’t everyone be perfectly free to decline to do that? Especially minor children?


  1. Shatterface says

    The requirement to fast from sunrise to sunset is an odd one as it takes no account of where you are. Muslims in the northern hemisphere are fasting during the longest hottest days while those in the South get off relatively lightly.

    Other practices are adjusted depending on where the Muslim is; prayers are directed towards Mecca, for instance, not north, or south. The general rule is the same but the practice takes account of the location.

    So why doesn’t fasting take account of the fact some Muslims are fasting during longer, hotter days and adjust the rules accordingly?

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