No smoking, no drinking — not even water

This is a bit weird. I don’t mean in a “help help omigod US soldiers are being told to be polite to Moooslims” way, but in a “wait what about the health and safety of the soldiers themselves” way. US troops have been told to respect Ramadan.

Some 5 million people live in Baghdad but its busy sidewalk restaurants are now empty. No smoking, no drinking — not even water.

And yes, no sex. At least not during daylight hours.

“When I’m fasting and I see someone who is eating or smoking,” said a merchant on Karada Street, “I get very irritated.”

It’s clear that U.S. soldiers, including those with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, are getting the message.

“The eating in front of the locals or the drinking or the smoking of cigarettes or things like that have been prohibited,” said Sgt. Larry Green.

Just to make sure, all soldiers in the 82nd all received a pamphlet titled “Ramadan: A Guide for Soldiers.” It explains the religious significance of Ramadan — to honor Allah — and provides helpful tips. “After sundown when the fast is broken,” it reads, “do not be alarmed if you see large groups gathering to share a meal.”

I can see telling them not to stuff their faces in front of people who are fasting. But no drinking water? In Baghdad?

I hope what they’ve been told is more flexible than that.

But then I also wish Ramadan didn’t mandate no drinking. It’s a terrible, disgusting, inhuman prohibition, created at a time when knowledge of physiology wasn’t great.


  1. cartomancer says

    It was great enough that we knew the importance of drinking water in hot climates. That’s pretty much the first bit of physiology we learned…

  2. says

    I’m sure the ban won’t last long. Just wait until the right-wing Christians in DC hear about how the Murican Troops are being told to respect Muslim culture.


    But seriously, I agree with you that it’s possible to not flaunt your differing beliefs while at the same time not restrict yourself to the point of endangering your health just to avoid offending someone else with different religious beliefs.

  3. AnotherAnonymouse says

    The Ramadan rules are only when off-base. On the base, everything is business-as-usual. Eat, drink, whatever so long as it’s on-base. That said, yes, it’s really crazy to restrict drinking of water in the summer in the desert.

  4. says

    @ 3 – I knew it was off-base, but figured there could be situations where they had to be off-base all day, without being able to hide in a truck for long enough to drink some water. I don’t know; I don’t know the details of how they work; but I’ve done physical outdoor work in hot weather and…well, I’ll put it this way, one colleague in another part of the city died of heat exhaustion.

    @ 1 – did we? People knew it wasn’t optional, it wasn’t just a matter of comfort? Because if you’re right, I can’t figure out why this rule exists. Telling people to give up treats and luxuries and pleasures for a day (or longer) is one thing, but telling them to give up a necessity of life is another – so I’ve been assuming Mo didn’t understand that it was a necessity of life. Perhaps I’ve been giving him too much credit.

  5. Menyambal says

    Wouldn’t the believers get more virtue from their fasting if they were surrounded by debauchery? That guy saying he gets angry when he sees others eating sounds like a weak believer to me, full of secret resentment.

    The military can tell soldiers to be considerate, but there had better be a way for them to get adequate food and water. IIRC, there are exceptions in the rules for travellers and workers—soldiers from another land probably count.

    Whoever made that rule about fasting probably meant for folks to sit inside and meditate all day.

  6. Pen says

    I am told it is not absolutely unheard of for Muslims during Ramadan to err… wash their faces very thoroughly in the bathrooms … to the extent that perhaps, some of the water finds its way to the inside of their mouths…

  7. RJW says

    As an inhabitant of a country with very hot summers I’m expressing great scepticism in regard to the “no water” rule, if people don’t drink a lot of fluids during summer they die. European tourists sometimes ignore the warnings, wander about in 40+C weather and pay the price. I’d like to know how Muslims defy the laws of basic physiology.

    Ramadan seems like an excellent preparation for jihad.

  8. Erp says

    The death rate may go up during Ramadan but that is probably a combo of fasting during daylight and overindulgence at night, apparently many people gain weight during the month.

    My guess is the soldiers are being told to be discreet when drinking water not not drinking at all (apparently there have been incidents in the past where soldiers have taunted the locals about being able to drink). Note most locals are probably inside anyway conserving energy (the party starts at sunset and ends at dawn) and not on the streets during daylight hours so drinking discreetly should be little problem.

    Apparently travelers, the ill, pregnant women or breast feeding mothers can choose to not fast or break the fast but must make each day up later (or pay for feeding for one day one poor person for each day missed). Children before puberty do not fast; the elderly don’t have to fast either but the authorities seem to differ on whether they are completely exempt or have to pay for missing. Mensurating women or women bleeding from childbirth cannot fast but have to make missed days up later. The rules on Ramadan are crazy but not originally so crazy as to deliberately kill (at least as far as most authorities have ruled, Saudi Arabia and a few others are a different matter though even Saudi Arabia doesn’t require hospital patients to fast).

  9. cartomancer says

    The importance of maintaining hydration to health, especially in hot climates, was known explicitly to Greek and Roman medicine. Many Hippocratic texts mention it, as does Galen in his De Sanitate Tuenda. Alcmaeon of Croton in the sixth century BC is said to have written about it also. The Romans experienced it first-hand in their military campaigns in the Middle East, and the Persians were similarly aware.

    In fact, given how religious fasting works, it seems much more likely to me that Muhammad (or whoever wrote his lines when it came to compiling the text that forms the basis for Ramadan) was very aware of the importance of water to health, and that’s why it was prohibited. A fast is an act of deprivation, and depriving oneself of necessities makes a far stronger statement than depriving oneself only of pleasures. The whole point is that it causes you suffering – it’s a classic example of costly display behaviour.

  10. AnotherAnonymouse says

    Remember that military people (I was one for 20 years, and before that I was a dependent child of a military person for 18 years) are told to follow the laws of the country they’re in. The military base is considered American soil where American laws apply, but (for example), American soldiers who litter in Singapore are held responsible for their actions. American soldiers who drive drunk in Japan are held responsible for their actions.

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