The Chinese government has already disturbed the Ramadhan fasting of their Northwest Territories Muslims. They have forbidden it. In fact, the degree of invasiveness into the lives of the Uyghur Muslims people becomes even more evident with the Chinese government’s meal policies in Ramadhan. It has been widely reported that, “During the Islamic fasting month of Ramadhan, the authorities force Muslim schoolchildren to have lunch. State employees are under similar pressure.” Surveys found that those who conform do so to ‘conceal’ their faith.
Reports from various sources further confirm that, “State units organize lunches for government employees, and in some areas, universities provide free lunches for students, hoping to encourage them to break the fast.” Restaurants are forced to remain open during the daylight fasting hours. Muslim-run restaurants are “…pushed into signing pledges to remain open during the fasting period, as is the custom in other Islamic regions of the world.” One municipal website reports that “…officials in Atush city, in the far west of the remote Tarim Basin, were dispatched to count all the restaurants run by Muslims and to ‘educate’ their owners into signing the agreement of their own accord.”
At least the Rohingyas might fast, except what is the value of a fast from people who do not have food to start with? And there are other obstacles to religious freedom in the Rohingya Ramadhan. For example, Ansar, a 50-year-old local from Rakhine state, told me that Myanmar’s security personnel barred Muslim Rohingya from worshipping in mosques throughout Rakhine state. The ban started in the third week of a previous Muslim fasting month. Ansar said that more than 400 mosques in the western state had been affected. The tensions remain high in the area and the authorities are always on high alert to prevent new clashes. At the beginning of Ramadhan, the Myanmar’s border guards sealed at least six mosques in their vicinity and threatened to detain or shoot Muslims if they dared to pray there.
Ramadhan trains us in the two sorts of Power — material and spiritual. If you do not know the spiritual power that takes over your being toward the end of Ramadhan, that power of the spirit will be overcome by the power of the material, such as that being displayed by governments in their politics.
For some Muslims, who actually have states, albeit secular, at least have a home base from which to fast and withdraw into their private soul-world. In Malaysia, we have Islam as the religion of the Federation – which provides for Islam-based governance that we can count on assisting us in our fasting facilities. The Rohingyas, and many other Muslims, either do not have their own states or are very busy fighting for their rights under hostile governance, like Buddhist extremists, Zionists and so on.
There might be certain aspects of the secular “Human Rights” that some of us can agree as “inalienable”, and which we need to practice our religion in safety and peace. However, without understanding and conforming to the spiritual power we are given each year at Ramadhan time, there is no way these other secular freedoms can protect us.
Therefore, aside from the secular versions of Human Rights (various freedoms), fundamental to the concept of such rights is an understanding and conviction of the spiritual power derived from Ramadhan, as well as the worldview of Islam, according to the instructions we have inherited from Al Qur’an and our Prophet (s.a.w.). We are taught that Ramadhan is, primarily, the proof and evidence that many Muslims find leads them into the safe harbour of a deeper Islam itself. It is also a blessing and training for Muslims, that also affect the entire human race.
To fully empathize with the sufferings of the minority Muslims and the feelings that a denied Ramadhan evokes, we must appreciate our own Ramadhan. Not only that we must strive to achieve taqwa; to aim for the stations of sincerity, loftiness, and excellence – stations where the Pleasure of Allah is bestowed. That also means having our Iftar (breaking of fast) dinners with mother’s cooking at home, when possible, not at expensive hotels which throw much of their cooking into the trash afterwards, completely against the spirit of remembering the suffering and hunger of the poor and oppressed.
We are not talking about street beggars. We are now talking about the 75% of the world’s refugees who are homeless Muslims, and now, as in Myanmar, stateless, possibly facing even forms of genocide not unlike the Jews faced under Germany’s Hitler. And Allah protect us from such delusions that we are “good Muslims” if we are not aware of these conditions among so many of our fellow Muslims.