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Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 8

Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 8

Many of us came to the UAE from Western countries where Islam is, frankly, at best, sadly misunderstood and only spoken about in reference to political issues.



By Bernd Debusmann Jr./senior Reporter

Published: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 1:09 AM

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

To me, Ramadan in the UAE seems to be a bit of a ‘missed teaching opportunity’. As I’ve noted previously, I continue to be a bit shocked at how little many expats – especially those from Europe or North America – know about Ramadan or its significance.

Many of us came to the UAE from Western countries where Islam is, frankly, at best, sadly misunderstood and only spoken about in reference to political issues. In the worst cases, Muslims are seen as one huge block of people who think the same, whether they be in Morocco, the Arabian Peninsula or Indonesia. The very cosmopolitan UAE — home to thousands of expats, most of whom will go home eventually — is well placed to be a global educator in this regard.

Despite the laudable efforts of organisations such as the Shaikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, to many non-Muslim expats Ramadan is still defined by what you can or can’t do. Talking to many westerners in the past few days, I couldn’t help but notice that most of what I was hearing was a litany of complaints, about having to go without food, water and (importantly) not being able to smoke cigarettes in public. Still others moan about being unable to conduct much official business for the holy month. We’re all guests here, and the month is about Muslims and their religion, not about inconveniencing expats.

In the future, I think it behooves the UAE — both in the private and public sectors — to take more steps to educate non-Muslims about the meaning of Ramadan. What is Ramadan exactly? And why is it followed the way it is? For example, I’m ashamed to say that, despite having many Muslim friends over the years and travelling quite a lot in the Middle East and North Africa, I was previously unaware of the significance of Taraweeh prayers, and of the small variations of Ramadan traditions between believers in different countries. I’m sure I’m not alone.

 bernd@khaleejtimes.com


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