First Published: 2017-06-18

Two faces of Ramadan: Over-consumption for some, scarcity for others
In Tunis, Beirut, Dubai, Manama, Istanbul and other major cities, the display of lavishness and over-consumption contends with the bitter reality of poverty, displacement and conflict, writes Iman Zayat.
Middle East Online

TUNIS - At Villa Didon, a hotel perched atop Byrsa Hill in Carthage, Tunisia, minutes pass like hours as waiters rush around with colourful dishes before the delightful moment when the soundof theadhanresonates to announce the breaking of the fast.

Those who are familiar with Ramadan — a holy month for Muslims — know well the two scenes that repeat themselves countless times and in different venues: Throughout the day, crowds flock to supermarkets and shops and overspend on food products they do not really need.Then, around sunset, they line up at restaurants, eateries and bakeries where they tend to over-order and fill their tables with too many plates.

These two scenes are not exclusive to one country. In Tunis, Beirut, Dubai, Manama, Istanbul and other major cities, the display of lavishness and over-consumption contends with the bitter reality of poverty, displacement and conflict.

“It is a chronic issue of mentality. Ramadan is a religious month of restraint but people tend to spend recklessly on food,” said Mounir Sehli, a volunteer at a charity in Tunis.

“While there is nothing wrong with spending money in Islam, israf (overspending) is forbidden. We should not forget that the Arab world is facing overwhelming challenges, withmultiple and complex situations on an unprecedented scale,” he added, noting that “people should feel for others.”

After political instability in recent years, Tunisia has been grappling with economic stagnation and persistent unemployment. A recent survey by the National Institute of Statistics put the country’s poverty rate at 15.2%.

In other parts of the Arab world, Ramadan has been a tough month, especially for millions of Arab refugees who were forced to leave their homes.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) puts the number of Syrians who need humanitarian assistance at 13.5 million, counting more than6 millioninternally displaced people and more than 4.8 million refugees.

In Libya,Iraq and Yemen violence and instabilityare triggering an economic collapse and generating newwaves of displacement.

As Ramadan coincides again with summer, those who fled their homes to escape war and violence are not only facing the lack of basic necessities but also high temperatures and abysmal conditions in ill-equipped camps and shelters.

Away from the display of lavishness, the situation looks worse than unfair: A busy Ramadan for aid organisations in camps, food shortages, poverty affecting millions of Arab children and a long list of unaddressed challenges.

To deal with such a bitter reality, charities across the Muslim world are helping the disadvantaged. In Dubai, the Salma Humanitarian Relief Programme, an initiative of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), began a campaign to collect food and relief supplies for victims of war and national disasters.

In the Emirati capital, the Abu Dhabi City Municipality has been distributing meals to thousands of workers as part of the “Year of Giving” initiative.

In Tunisia, AFREECAN, an association for human and cultural development, has developed Lammét Lahbeb — The Gathering of the Loved Ones — in cooperation with Génération Liberté. Lammét Lahbeb is providing at least 200 Ramadan meals per day for those in need.

In the Greater Tunis District, A Meal for Every Tunisian has been distributing much-needed food to the deprived in Ettadhamen neighbourhood, Mnihla and Choutrana.

Across the Arab world, charities, civil society groups, consumer organisations as well as religious authorities have been warning against overspending and calling for restraint and solidarity.

SheikhMahmud Ashour, the former deputy imam of al-Azharand a member of the Islamic Research Academy, said: “Islam is a religion of moderation. Frugality as well as extravagance are disapproved of.”

“For a Muslim to carry out his religious duties, he needs to strike a balance between faith, biological needs and individual requirements. The religion stipulates that no aspect should outweigh the other,” he said.

Iman Zayat is an Arab Weekly contributing editor in Tunis.

 

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe