With the beginning of Ramadan, the information department of the interior ministry in Kuwait reminded the public of the importance of respecting the feelings of all fasting people by not eating openly during daytime, whether on the street, public places or workplaces. Law no. (44/1968) stipulates imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month and a fine not exceeding KD 100 or one of these two penalties for violators.
According to the law, any person who is forced, instigated or assisted in such an action may be subjected to the penalty of closing of the store which is used for this purpose for a period not exceeding two months.
This law, which has been on the books for years, became a matter of debate this year among some people, while the MoI stressed the importance of preserving the sanctity of this holy month by observing public order, respecting the feelings of fasting Muslims, not going against the customs and traditions prevalent in society and the need to refrain from eating during the daytime in Ramadan.
A number of clerics believe that workers whose jobs are under the sun can eat and drink if fasting will cause harm to them. They should preferably do this discreetly to respect the sanctity of this month and take into consideration the feelings of fasting people.
However, there is a clear difference between many clerics about breaking the fast. Some people reject this view even for workers, and call for workers to work only at nighttime. This issue has become a subject of debate not only in Kuwait, but also in Tunisia, about the right to refrain from fasting. Some insist on this right, while others reject it. In 2018, some young Tunisians carried out a protest, considering abstaining from fasting as an individual liberty, drinking water and smoking cigarettes openly in order to assert their right to break the fast without fear. In another example, the Egyptian government launched security campaigns in 2009, 2014 and 2016 to counter the phenomenon of people breaking the fast, resulting in the arrest of dozens of citizens.
They were freed after paying a fine of 50 pounds. But a large number of Arab countries, including Kuwait, impose a penalty on those who openly break the fast in Ramadan, ranging from fines to imprisonment. I believe that such matters should be based on public morality, whether there is a law or not, but we must take into consideration that we are also home to many non-Muslim expats. We cannot require them not to drink or eat during the day in Ramadan, but perhaps it is better not to eat during the day openly so as not to cause arguments or go to jail.
Non-Muslim people need to respect the feelings of fasting Muslims and should not deliberately drink and eat in front of them. I believe that it is necessary to verify the identity of the person in case they are caught doing such an action in order to maintain social peace and stability.
I want to alert all non-Muslims on the importance of taking this matter seriously so as not to be exposed to problems and avoid eating and drinking publicly during the daytime in Ramadan. The government must punish companies that deploy workers during the day because of the extreme heat and risks involved.
By Muna Al-Fuzai