Fasting is a Personal Matter

10713016_726473520773848_360863087742490638_nAmong the common debates within Indonesian Muslim society when it comes to Ramadhan (one of the Five Pillars of Islam) is whether entertainment centers, discotheques, restaurants and food stalls should be allowed to continue operating during the month, particularly in daylight hours.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin recently tweeted that restaurants and food stalls might operate as usual during Ramadhan to provide food for those who are not fasting (non-Muslims) as well as Muslims who are allowed not to fast, such as those on long trips (safar), menstruating women and the sick.

Some Muslims have been angered by his statement, arguing that owners of discotheques and restaurants must close their businesses, particularly during the daytime, to show respect for Muslims, who form the majority in the country. Such dissenters have also compared Ramadhan to the Balinese Hindu celebration Nyepi, when even the airport in Denpasar does not operate.

With this logic, Muslims who raid discotheques or food stalls want to be treated like pecalang (traditional Balinese guardians of rituals) when Balinese Hindus observe Nyepi. In a more advanced argument, they refer to a “collective right” (as opposed to individual rights) for Muslims in Ramadhan to be respected as Hindus are during Nyepi.

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Aziz Anwar Fahrudin, The writer is a graduate student at the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta.



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