Not so fast! Ramadan laws in Arab countries make you think twice before digging in

Published June 21st, 2015 - 08:39 GMT

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Ramadan is now in full swing, and while it is a time for celebrating with friends and family, it is also a test in willpower and self-control. Your grumbling stomach and drooping eyelids are reminder enough of the hardships faced by Muslims during Ramadan, and the prospect of no food, water, or tobacco during daylight hours for a full month is enough to make anyone go weak in the knees. Continue reading below »

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Relax, you’re in Lebanon! Breaking your fast in public here gets you nothing more than dirty looks and an occasional flying slipper. That said, be respectful of your practicing Muslim brothers and sisters and refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in the public areas of Lebanon’s more conservative Muslim communities.
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Image 1 of 9:  1 / 9Relax, you’re in Lebanon! Breaking your fast in public here gets you nothing more than dirty looks and an occasional flying slipper. That said, be respectful of your practicing Muslim brothers and sisters and refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in the public areas of Lebanon’s more conservative Muslim communities.

Enlarge
A quick trip south (and past a few tricky checkpoints) and you’re in a different situation. Palestinian penal code prohibits eating and smoking in daytime hours during Ramadan. While the offense is punishable by one month in prison, you can stay out by opting to pay the measly 15 JD fine. Don’t have it? Ask a friend! It is Ramadan after all.
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Image 2 of 9:  2 / 9A quick trip south (and past a few tricky checkpoints) and you’re in a different situation. Palestinian penal code prohibits eating and smoking in daytime hours during Ramadan. While the offense is punishable by one month in prison, you can stay out by opting to pay the measly 15 JD fine. Don’t have it? Ask a friend! It is Ramadan after all.

Enlarge
In the extremely unlikely event that you find a falafel shop open during the day in Jordan, think twice before digging in. A new law in Jordan bumped the fine for breaking fast in public to a whopping 50JD, with one month in jail. Not of the 'doing time' sort? Pay an additional 5JD per day to keep yourself on the other side of the bars.
Reduce

Image 3 of 9:  3 / 9In the extremely unlikely event that you find a falafel shop open during the day in Jordan, think twice before digging in. A new law in Jordan bumped the fine for breaking fast in public to a whopping 50JD, with one month in jail. Not of the "doing time" sort? Pay an additional 5JD per day to keep yourself on the other side of the bars.

Enlarge
While a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, Egypt has a significant Coptic Christian minority. As such, Egypt doesn’t technically have any laws against breaking fast in public, but that won’t keep authorities from picking you up for public indecency. If you absolutely must, be prepared for a fine of E£500 ($65) and up to three days in jail.
Reduce

Image 4 of 9:  4 / 9While a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, Egypt has a significant Coptic Christian minority. As such, Egypt doesn’t technically have any laws against breaking fast in public, but that won’t keep authorities from picking you up for public indecency. If you absolutely must, be prepared for a fine of E£500 ($65) and up to three days in jail.

Enlarge
The UAE has some of the lightest punishments in the Gulf (which isn’t saying much. Looking at you, Saudi Arabia). For non-Muslims, the first offense earns you a warning, with jail time and fines for repeat offenders. Allah help you if you’re a Muslim fast-breaker. Expect jail time and a fine of 2,000dh (about $500) for the first offense.
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Image 5 of 9:  5 / 9The UAE has some of the lightest punishments in the Gulf (which isn’t saying much. Looking at you, Saudi Arabia). For non-Muslims, the first offense earns you a warning, with jail time and fines for repeat offenders. Allah help you if you’re a Muslim fast-breaker. Expect jail time and a fine of 2,000dh (about $500) for the first offense.

Enlarge
Like most Gulf countries, Qatar has some pretty strict laws about breaking your fast in public. And while Qatari penal code only mentions eating and drinking, it’s not a free license to light up - Qatar implemented a ban on public smoking years ago. Fast-breakers here get slammed with a 3,000 QR ($800) fine and/or up to three months in prison.
Reduce

Image 6 of 9:  6 / 9Like most Gulf countries, Qatar has some pretty strict laws about breaking your fast in public. And while Qatari penal code only mentions eating and drinking, it’s not a free license to light up - Qatar implemented a ban on public smoking years ago. Fast-breakers here get slammed with a 3,000 QR ($800) fine and/or up to three months in prison.

Enlarge
In recent years, Algeria has been the site of a series of “picnic protests,” in which hundreds of people risked imprisonment by eating in public in protest of the country’s harsh Ramadan laws. Given that former punishments dealt out by Algerian courts include four years in prison and fines of €1000 ($1200), it’s quite a risk.
Reduce

Image 7 of 9:  7 / 9In recent years, Algeria has been the site of a series of “picnic protests,” in which hundreds of people risked imprisonment by eating in public in protest of the country’s harsh Ramadan laws. Given that former punishments dealt out by Algerian courts include four years in prison and fines of €1000 ($1200), it’s quite a risk.

Enlarge
It probably won’t shock you to hear that Saudi Arabia falls on the severe side of the spectrum when it comes to fast-breaking punishments. Eating, drinking, and smoking in public are all punishable offences. Expats get off easy with deportation and court-determined punishments. Saudi nationals face jail time and the old Saudi standby: flogging.
Reduce

Image 8 of 9:  8 / 9It probably won’t shock you to hear that Saudi Arabia falls on the severe side of the spectrum when it comes to fast-breaking punishments. Eating, drinking, and smoking in public are all punishable offences. Expats get off easy with deportation and court-determined punishments. Saudi nationals face jail time and the old Saudi standby: flogging.

Enlarge
You’re in Iran during Ramadan. It’s daytime. And you’re munching down on a shawerma? What are you thinking?! Iran’s public eaters have been subjected to everything from jail time, to public floggings, to having their lips burned with a cigarette! Now put it down and don’t go back to that shawerma place because they’re definitely Mossad.
Reduce

Image 9 of 9:  9 / 9You’re in Iran during Ramadan. It’s daytime. And you’re munching down on a shawerma? What are you thinking?! Iran’s public eaters have been subjected to everything from jail time, to public floggings, to having their lips burned with a cigarette! Now put it down and don’t go back to that shawerma place because they’re definitely Mossad.

Enlarge

1

Relax, you’re in Lebanon! Breaking your fast in public here gets you nothing more than dirty looks and an occasional flying slipper. That said, be respectful of your practicing Muslim brothers and sisters and refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in the public areas of Lebanon’s more conservative Muslim communities.

Image 1 of 9Relax, you’re in Lebanon! Breaking your fast in public here gets you nothing more than dirty looks and an occasional flying slipper. That said, be respectful of your practicing Muslim brothers and sisters and refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in the public areas of Lebanon’s more conservative Muslim communities.

2

A quick trip south (and past a few tricky checkpoints) and you’re in a different situation. Palestinian penal code prohibits eating and smoking in daytime hours during Ramadan. While the offense is punishable by one month in prison, you can stay out by opting to pay the measly 15 JD fine. Don’t have it? Ask a friend! It is Ramadan after all.

Image 2 of 9A quick trip south (and past a few tricky checkpoints) and you’re in a different situation. Palestinian penal code prohibits eating and smoking in daytime hours during Ramadan. While the offense is punishable by one month in prison, you can stay out by opting to pay the measly 15 JD fine. Don’t have it? Ask a friend! It is Ramadan after all.

3

In the extremely unlikely event that you find a falafel shop open during the day in Jordan, think twice before digging in. A new law in Jordan bumped the fine for breaking fast in public to a whopping 50JD, with one month in jail. Not of the 'doing time' sort? Pay an additional 5JD per day to keep yourself on the other side of the bars.

Image 3 of 9In the extremely unlikely event that you find a falafel shop open during the day in Jordan, think twice before digging in. A new law in Jordan bumped the fine for breaking fast in public to a whopping 50JD, with one month in jail. Not of the "doing time" sort? Pay an additional 5JD per day to keep yourself on the other side of the bars.

4

While a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, Egypt has a significant Coptic Christian minority. As such, Egypt doesn’t technically have any laws against breaking fast in public, but that won’t keep authorities from picking you up for public indecency. If you absolutely must, be prepared for a fine of E£500 ($65) and up to three days in jail.

Image 4 of 9While a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, Egypt has a significant Coptic Christian minority. As such, Egypt doesn’t technically have any laws against breaking fast in public, but that won’t keep authorities from picking you up for public indecency. If you absolutely must, be prepared for a fine of E£500 ($65) and up to three days in jail.

5

The UAE has some of the lightest punishments in the Gulf (which isn’t saying much. Looking at you, Saudi Arabia). For non-Muslims, the first offense earns you a warning, with jail time and fines for repeat offenders. Allah help you if you’re a Muslim fast-breaker. Expect jail time and a fine of 2,000dh (about $500) for the first offense.

Image 5 of 9The UAE has some of the lightest punishments in the Gulf (which isn’t saying much. Looking at you, Saudi Arabia). For non-Muslims, the first offense earns you a warning, with jail time and fines for repeat offenders. Allah help you if you’re a Muslim fast-breaker. Expect jail time and a fine of 2,000dh (about $500) for the first offense.

6

Like most Gulf countries, Qatar has some pretty strict laws about breaking your fast in public. And while Qatari penal code only mentions eating and drinking, it’s not a free license to light up - Qatar implemented a ban on public smoking years ago. Fast-breakers here get slammed with a 3,000 QR ($800) fine and/or up to three months in prison.

Image 6 of 9Like most Gulf countries, Qatar has some pretty strict laws about breaking your fast in public. And while Qatari penal code only mentions eating and drinking, it’s not a free license to light up - Qatar implemented a ban on public smoking years ago. Fast-breakers here get slammed with a 3,000 QR ($800) fine and/or up to three months in prison.

7

In recent years, Algeria has been the site of a series of “picnic protests,” in which hundreds of people risked imprisonment by eating in public in protest of the country’s harsh Ramadan laws. Given that former punishments dealt out by Algerian courts include four years in prison and fines of €1000 ($1200), it’s quite a risk.

Image 7 of 9In recent years, Algeria has been the site of a series of “picnic protests,” in which hundreds of people risked imprisonment by eating in public in protest of the country’s harsh Ramadan laws. Given that former punishments dealt out by Algerian courts include four years in prison and fines of €1000 ($1200), it’s quite a risk.

8

It probably won’t shock you to hear that Saudi Arabia falls on the severe side of the spectrum when it comes to fast-breaking punishments. Eating, drinking, and smoking in public are all punishable offences. Expats get off easy with deportation and court-determined punishments. Saudi nationals face jail time and the old Saudi standby: flogging.

Image 8 of 9It probably won’t shock you to hear that Saudi Arabia falls on the severe side of the spectrum when it comes to fast-breaking punishments. Eating, drinking, and smoking in public are all punishable offences. Expats get off easy with deportation and court-determined punishments. Saudi nationals face jail time and the old Saudi standby: flogging.

9

You’re in Iran during Ramadan. It’s daytime. And you’re munching down on a shawerma? What are you thinking?! Iran’s public eaters have been subjected to everything from jail time, to public floggings, to having their lips burned with a cigarette! Now put it down and don’t go back to that shawerma place because they’re definitely Mossad.

Image 9 of 9You’re in Iran during Ramadan. It’s daytime. And you’re munching down on a shawerma? What are you thinking?! Iran’s public eaters have been subjected to everything from jail time, to public floggings, to having their lips burned with a cigarette! Now put it down and don’t go back to that shawerma place because they’re definitely Mossad.

Reduce

 

It’s no picnic for those who aren’t fasting either. In fact, a picnic could land you in some pretty serious trouble, depending on where you are. In addition to having to deal with those lead-footed Iftar racers on the highway and cranky, sleep-deprived coworkers in the office, non-fasters also have to adhere to the same fasting practices as their hungry, decaffeinated counterparts, at least in public.

 

Most Muslim-majority countries, from Morocco to Iran, have some sort of penalty in place for those who choose to flaunt their disregard for their Muslim brothers and sisters in public. In some countries, it’s a small fine: in others, it’s jail time (or worse).

 

For those who aren’t fasting, that means drawing the curtains for your morning coffee or your afternoon meal. And that cigarette on the drive home you’ve been looking forward to all day? You can forget about that – smoking in your car can land you in just as much trouble.

 

The Ramadan effect

 

Breaking fast in public isn’t the only crime that spikes during the holy month. While most Muslim countries witness a drop in crime rates (as much as 40 percent in Saudi Arabia), some countries actually see an increase in specific crimes during Ramadan.

 

In Turkey, the number of murders per day jumped from three to seven in the first ten days of Ramadan 2014. In Indonesia, Jakarta police deploy some 18,000 extra personnel to deal with the increase in street crime during Eid al-Fitr. And in 2009, the Yemen Times reported that Ramadan was “the best time for the lucrative business of child trafficking and smuggling to flourish.”

 

For now, let’s focus on a crime with much less severe consequences. Take a look at the Arab world’s most notable examples of fast-breaking crackdowns.

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