It’s official. I hate Ramadan. It is my least favorite time of year. I know this now because I recognize a pattern of behavior and mood swings that comes with it every year, and this pertains to both the community and to me personally. It is a month that does not bring out the best in people but their worst too. This realization comes with a lot of disappointment and sorrow. A month that is meant to be such a powerful positive force is instead a month of bigotry, intolerance, gluttony and family friction.
Some of you may be wondering what I am on about with this wonderful month of cleansing, purity, giving, and sharing. It may be the case for some, but what I see of this month is unfortunately not so pretty. I don’t fast, I don’t pray, I don’t practice any religious obligation. That’s who I am. Yet I am asked to be respectful and tolerant to those around me and abstain from eating, drinking and general merriment because I too have to suffer in their chosen suffering. Well, I am sorry but last time I looked Islam was a religion of tolerance. It is tolerant of freedom of choice, freedom of religion. It recognizes free will and so each person is judged individually as the sum of their actions and not collectively as the sum of the communities actions. So why is it OK for the office cooler to be turned off, the water bottles not replaced, restaurants closed and closures of those that are legal opened to take place? Every year there is a loosening of the morays and attitudes of people only to be backlashed by aggressive behavior of those more fundamentalist. I ask those where is the tolerance that this religion preaches?
I have been to some iftars this year that have been few and far in between, and at each one it has not been a meal but a feast. Where is the empathy in that? How is this cleansing to the soul or the body? We become such gluttons, that with bellies full and minds numbed we sit and do nothing but watch soap opera after soap opera till there is nothing left of the persons we were at the beginning of the month.
The whole month is a disruption of our regular habits and schedules, and not in a good way. Life and people go crazy just look outside a window at 4:30 or 5:00 and then at 6:30. Traffic becomes chaotic and scary with people rushing to fill their bellies. And then the city becomes a ghost town not a soul in the street. I’ve gone out at this time of day only to be met with a great feeling of aloneness that is amplified by the sound of silence. The city doesn’t sleep, it dies. And then again wakes from the living dead in the evening to nights of worship. People who worship their God in a mosque or worship of the argileh, food, cards… or whichever vice that comes at this time of year. The hours of the day and night are messed up and it is reflected in our daily lives and used as an excuse in our offices.
And lets take a look at families. We all come together and so there is more friction, more tenseness, more boredom, more feuds. Even though we quietly put aside our differences for the couple of hours we share a meal the amount of passive aggressive behavior I see is scary. I heard somewhere in reference to the holiday season in the west, it is the time that emergency room visits increase because all that family time causes so much anxiety and depression. It made sense. Maybe it’s because I come from a dysfunctional family, but done we all at some level suffer from dysfunctionality?
When I was a child, Ramadan was an exciting time. It was a time that was made fun by our parents, it was a time to fast, to work hard, to learn, to become spiritual, to be one with the community, a time for family to connect. I hear that from many people around me. So what happened? Where did that spirit go? Has it disappeared into the Ramadan lights covering the city in glitter and glitz? Who stole Ramadan?