MARRAKESH, Morocco – Moroccan law punishes those who do not fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Entrepreneur Hassan Auid usually meets with his friends on weekends to drink tea and have lunch in a courtyard in the old quarter of the city of Marrakech.
None of them fast during Ramadan so they have to eat hidden from public view.
“I stopped fasting in Ramadan 24 years ago, I decided so because I do not see any benefit in fasting,” he told EFE.
The 44-year-old, who owns a tourism business, was one of the few people who was willing to give his name.
He said he considers himself lucky because he does not face any pressure at work or in his personal life because his friends “are mostly non-Muslims.”
His three friends, who also do not fast, did not want to be identified.
Morocco is often considered a more open country than other Arab nations when it comes to religious matters but its society is stricter when it comes to fasting during Ramadan.
The law states that anyone who breaks the fast in public can be punished with between one and six months in jail.
Restaurants do not serve Moroccans during daylight hours and if a citizen eats or smokes in the street they are at risk of being assaulted by their neighbors.
Auid said there has been some progress for his generation compared to that of his parents, who would not think of eating during Ramadan as individual freedom but a religious sin.
“My parents will not understand or accept, so I have to practice with them with a bit of hypocrisy,” he added.
Some young people “plan” not to fast and celebrate with parties in their homes to eat and drink alcohol, especially in large cities, where it is easier to hide.
Islamic law grants exemption from fasting for travelers and some people resort to that.
It is common to see young people at service stations on roadsides, drinking coffee and eating pastries served by waiters who probably know that they are not on a journey but seeking “a refuge to sin.”
In recent years, police have quietly lifted the pressure on Moroccans who do not observe the fast and this year there has been no announcement of any arrests for eating during the holy month.
Another case is that of architect Ahmed Asermuh, who receives visitors in his office in Marrakech with cold water.
“We have to counteract this (social) imposition, they are going to beat us, to kill us, to put us in prison, but this is the price of freedom, if you do not have the willingness to die for something, forget it, you’re not going anywhere,” he said.
He denounced the “hypocrisy, cowardice and fear” of Moroccans who do not comply with Ramadan and do not to defend themselves in public.