Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim - Day 16

Ramadan through the eyes of a  non-Muslim - Day 16

Ramadan remains a long way away from losing its core principles and religious significance, which I’ve been happy to see so vividly displayed during the holy month so far.



by

Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Published: Sat 4 Jul 2015, 12:39 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:19 PM

As I witness how Ramadan is unfolding in Dubai, I’m beginning to think that the holy month is in danger of becoming far too commercialised, judging from the way things are headed. The time to think about this is now, before residents of the UAE wake up one morning and realise that Ramadan has turned into something it was never meant to be.

This, of course, has been the fate of many other religious holidays. Christmas, for example, is now largely devoid of any religious significance, as businesses have turned the event from a Christian holiday to a largely commercial event centered on Santa Claus, his trusty elves on the North Pole, shopping and toys. While this is the most extreme example, there are many others. Another example: St Patrick’s Day — which is meant to commemorate the Patron Saint of Ireland — has become a festival of binge drinking, and St Valentine’s Day is about overpriced dinners for two and the greeting card industry working overtime.

Ramadan remains a long way away from losing its core principles and religious significance, which I’ve been happy to see so vividly displayed during the holy month so far. “Ramadan is not as much commercialised like other religious festivals,” one friendly KT reader recently wrote to me. “But some of the satellite TV channels are doing their best to commercialise Ramadan like they commercialised Christmas,” he added.

But still, in speaking to people who have been here for decades, it seems as though Ramadan has changed considerably, and perhaps not for the better.

Night after night, I watch people head to expensive Iftar and Suhur meals, some of which cost several hundred dirhams or more. There are competitions for Dh10,000 shopping vouchers and all sorts of deals to entice people to shop. The Ramadan Night Market, which began last night, is expected to attract 125,000 shoppers over the next ten days. What, I wonder, does this have to do with Ramadan? Won’t it become even more commercialised as more and more people — many of them non-Muslims — come live in ever-expanding Dubai?

“These big and lavish meals actually kill the spirit of simplicity and sacrifice that is the key message,” one reader told me recently, who also noted that “show of wealth” is, in fact, a grave sin. From an outsider’s perspective, I fear that if the current trend of commercialising the holy month continues, many of us will look back on today with a bit of sad nostalgia, in the same way that many people who experienced Ramadan here decades ago seem to do now.

bernd@khaleejtimes.com


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