Ramadan fast-breakers arrested in Marrakesh

Five young males – one of them a minor – are reported to have been arrested by Moroccan tourism police for fast-breaking during Ramadan. According to Morocco World News they bought orange juice from a stall in Jamaa el Fna, the large square in Marrakesh.

Article 222 of the Moroccan penal code says:

"A person known as belonging to the Muslim religion who ostensibly breaks the fast in a public place during the time of Ramadan, without grounds permitted by this religion, is punished by imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of 12 to 120 dirhams [$1.50-$15]."

However, the Qur'an states that Muslims are not required to fast if they are "on a journey", and the five youngsters are reportedly claiming they were en route from Rabat to Marrakesh airport at the time of their arrest.

Fasting during Ramadan is supposed to encourage self-discipline but numerous Arab countries have laws that make it compulsory for all Muslims. Some of the Gulf states also forbid non-Muslims from eating, drinking or smoking in public during the hours of fasting.

In recent years there have been several protests in Morocco against compulsory fasting and activists formed a social media group called Masayminch ("We're not fasting") where they posted photographs of themselves eating or drinking.

In Rabat in 2012, a young man was given a three-month jail sentence and fined 250 dirhams ($30) for fast-breaking. He said he had done it deliberately, as a protest.

In 2009, around 70 supporters of the Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles (MALI) attempted to hold a fast-breaking picnic in a forest near Casablanca but were dispersed by large numbers of police as they arrived.

Their argument was that fasting is a matter of personal choice and not a legitimate concern of the Moroccan state.

In neighbouring Algeria, compulsory fasting has generated more public debate. One incident in 2013, when police questioned three young men for suspected fast-breaking, led to a protest where around 300 people attended a public lunch during fasting hours in Tizi-Ouzou.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Wednesday, 8 July 2015