Ramadan 2015 starts on Thursday, and if this is something you are not familiar with, then I’ll explain briefly. It is a fairly important religious observation practised by many Muslims and involves fasting from sunrise until sunset, and to be clear, when I say fasting, I mean no food or drink.
One specific observation about Ramadan is that the very existence of the concept, no food or drink while the sun is up, is clear evidence that the belief is one that naturally emerged from a human culture located on or near the equator of the planet and arose at a time when knowledge of the physical reality of regions beyond the equator was unknown. Fasting might indeed work when the division between day and night is more or less equal. However, when faced with a requirement to adhere to such a practise when living in the polar regions where during the summer in many places daylight can be very long, for example up to 22 hours in Iceland, and in some places further north the sun does not actually set at all.
So what do you do when you discover that the made-up religious rules don’t work?
Easy, you simply make up more rules.
I’m not kidding.
Muslims in the Arctic Circle are urgently coming up with new rules for Ramadan when they are banned from eating during the day – as the region will have 24-hour sunshine.
A Swedish Muslim association says new guidelines are being drawn up for the fasting month, which begins on June 18 this year, as members of the religion are not supposed to eat until sunset.
Just three days later is the longest day of the year – when the sun blazes around the clock above the Arctic Circle and only sets for a few hours further south
‘We’ve got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting,’ Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association, told AFP.
‘You’re supposed to start fasting before the sun rises, at dawn. But there is no real dawn in the summer months in Stockholm.’
So a meeting of Imams are busy making up new rules, and that’s the fun part about beliefs, if something does not work, you can just make up more stuff.
Am I really concerned?
Generally no, if people wish to inflict daft religious practises upon themselves, then I have no problem with that, and simply wish them well. There is however something here that I do have a very strong objection to. Within some Islamic nations, it is not a free choice, and is instead a crime to not participate. People are flogged, burned, fined, and jailed across a wide variety of nation states such as Algeria, Kuwait, the U.A.E, and Iran, to name but a few.
That is both morally and ethically wrong, and a gross breach of basic human rights, but then that is yet one more illustration why it is a really bad idea for beliefs, any belief, to gain political power – it always ends badly for minorities.
Ramadan Picnic anybody?
You do of course have to salute the bravery of the folks in Algeria who hold a Ramadan picnic as a protest against forced fasting.