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.
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.