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Ramadan 2017: The protest is growing in Tunisia, against forced fasting

Sunday 9 July 2017, by siawi3

Source: http://www.newsweek.com/ramadan-2017-tunisia-fasting-arab-spring-624260

Ramadan 2017: Why Are Tunisians Protesting for the Right Not to Fast?

By Conor Gaffey

On 6/12/17 at 7:30 AM

Armed with banners, placards and cigarettes, dozens of protesters gathered in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Sunday for the first-ever demonstration of its kind - the right not to fast for Ramadan.

The protesters, organized by the Mouch Bessif group—Arabic for “Not against our will”—demanded Tunisians be granted the right to break the Ramadan fast should they wish to do so. They also called for an end to the controversial arrests of non-fasters in the North African country, AFP reported.

Ramadan began on May 26 in Tunisia. During the holy month, Muslims are proscribed from several activities including eating, drinking, smoking, and having sexual intercourse during daylight hours.

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Tunisia Ramadan protest A Tunisian protester smokes a cigarette and holds a placard reading in French: "Why is it bothering you? If you fast and I eat?" during a demonstration for the right to eat and smoke in public during the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan in Tunis, Tunisia, on June 11. The issue has been an annual debate in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution. SOFIENNE HAMDAOUI/AFP/Getty

Tunisia is unique among Arab countries in that eating in public during Ramadan is not technically a crime, according to French newspaper Liberation, though it is still frowned upon. Tunisia’s population is 99 percent Sunni Muslim, and most cafes and restaurants in Tunisia remain closed during the day in Ramadan.

The country’s constitution —which was revised in 2014 following the 2011 Arab Spring protests, in which longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted—guarantees freedom of belief and conscience and says the state must promote values of “moderation and tolerance.” But the constitution also gives the state the role of “guardian of religion.”

Read more: For Muslims in the U.S., the first Ramadan under President Trump has even greater meaning

Earlier in June, a northern Tunisian court sentenced four men to one-month jail terms after they were caught eating and smoking in a public garden. The men were sentenced for “public indecency” after being arrested following complaints from neighbors. A spokesman for the prosecution, Chokri Lahmar, said it had been a “provocative act,” according to AFP.

At Sunday’s demonstration, a man smoked in public and held a banner that read: “Why does it bother you if you fast and I eat?” Others said they had joined the protest to demand the state do more to protect freedom of conscience, AFP reported.

The issue of fasting in Ramadan has arisen annually in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, but Sunday was the first time protesters had taken to the streets. The Arab Spring protests, which affected multiple countries in the region, was catalyzed by the suicide of a Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself alight in protest of alleged government harassment.

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Source: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/afp/2017/06/tunisia-social-religion-ramadan-demonstration.html#ixzz4mKC0eGBc

Photo: A protester in Tunis openly smokes a cigarette and holds a placard reading in French "Why does it bother you if you fast and I eat?" during Ramadan on June 11, 2017 (photo by Sofienne HAMDAOUI/AFP)

Tunisians protest for right not to fast during Ramadan

Dozens of Tunisians demonstrated Sunday to demand the right to eat and drink in public during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and to protest against non-fasters being arrested.
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Dozens of Tunisians demonstrated Sunday to demand the right to eat and drink in public during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and to protest against non-fasters being arrested. There is no law against eating or drinking in public during Ramadan, but every year the issue comes to the fore in the North African country. Tunisia’s constitution guarantees "freedom of belief and conscience",...
Author AFP Posted June 11, 2017 17:25 GMT

There is no law against eating or drinking in public during Ramadan, but every year the issue comes to the fore in the North African country.

Tunisia’s constitution guarantees "freedom of belief and conscience", but the state is also the "guardian of religion".

Following a call by the "Mouch Bessif" (Arabic for "Not against our will") group, protesters in central Tunis shouted that "Individual freedom is guaranteed by the constitution!"

One man openly smoking a cigarette — this is also deemed unacceptable during Ramadan daylight hours — held a placard in French that asked: "Why does it bother you if you fast and I eat?"

Demonstrators also protested against the arrest of people who were not fasting.

At the beginning of June, four men were sentenced to a month in jail for "public indecency" after eating outside during daylight.

"We’re protesting about lawsuits against non-fasters... Whoever wants to fast can fast, but whoever doesn’t want to shouldn’t have to," demonstrator Karim Chair told AFP.

Since the 2011 revolution there have been calls for the right not to fast, but this was the first time such a demonstration has taken place in Tunisia.

"I fast but I came to join this protest and call with these people for respect for the freedom of belief and conscience," said another demonstrator, Kamel Jalouli.

Most cafes and restaurants in Tunisia close during the day in Ramadan, and those that open do so discreetly.

As this year’s fasting month began, a media-oriented preacher went round cafes open during the day to record footage of clients and shame them in a move that was heavily criticised on social networks.