Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Coptic Christian gives his views on what non-Muslims really think of Ramadan

By Marwa Helal in Egypt Today

Ah, Ramadan for most of us it means warm, glowing fawanees (lanterns),hurried meals before dawn, faith-testing traffic, late nights of prayer, feasting and family bonding. But what does it mean for the other 10 percent or so of the population — the Coptic Christians and people of other religions who endure the month with us? Looking for an honest answer, I met with a good Coptic friend at a local café, who agreed to share his thoughts but only on condition of anonymity.

“The printable answer is, ‘Yes’,” he pauses. Then, “I enjoy sharing the festive feelingof Ramadan with my fellow Egyptians, the majority of whom are Muslim,” he says. “But truthfully, everything — from the increase in car accidents to the incredible amount of noise during the day combined with the general lack of productivity — makes me say, ‘No, I’m definitely not looking forward to it.’

… “Ramadan has definitely changed over the years, I feel it most when I exchange greetings with my Muslim friends. I remember with my parents’ generation, their friends would come over for our holidays and we would do the same and you would really feel that there was something in the ‘kol sana wentu tayibeen.’ Now, we simply exchange these words of greeting, but the feeling just isn’t there and I don’t know why that is.

“I think Egyptians have become more and more stressed over the years — I don’t think it has anything do with the fasting, though, it’s just the general stress of dealing with more traffic and the increase in population. But I don’t recall ever seeing them so tense. And I think to myself, ‘They’re supposed to be more tolerant during Ramadan, that’s the whole point, but here they are, behaving in the complete opposite way.’

I just don’t get the paradoxical mindset of people who seem to think Ramadan is the perfect excuse for road-rage, rudeness and generally obnoxious behaviour.

It’s a month of spiritual discipline to make you into a better person, and it’s not just food and drink that break your fast! And as to laziness, if you’re going to sleep through the day, then why bother fasting?

It’s not all negative though:

“My Muslim friends never leave me out either. It’s nice when I get invited along to iftar because then we really are sharing in the spirit of Ramadan. Not to mention the wonderful quality and quantity of food — it’s amazing. My favorite foods that we don’t get any other time of the year are khoushaf [dried fruits soaked in water] and qamar el-din [apricot nectar].

Which is wonderful and heartwarming and all…but isn’t it blasphemy and sacrilege to describe khoushaf as “dried fruits soaked in water”?

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