By Gina Furfaro
By Gina Furfaro
Rabat – Ramadan has commenced! As a non-Muslim American living in Morocco, I know well enough not to eat or drink in public while Moroccans are fasting. What I don’t know is whether or not to fast myself. After days of mental turmoil and probing both Moroccans and fellow foreigners, I have observed the issue from several perspectives.
From a religious perspective:
I am not a Muslim. Therefore, I am not driven by the will of God to deprive myself of water, food and sex for the next 30 days. Though I hold a deep admiration for those so devoted to Islam, I feel it is wrong to insert myself into their religious practice. On the other hand, because Islam isn’t just a religion dictating individuals’ actions but also a working foundation of Moroccan society, Ramadan is embedded in the Moroccan culture. This blur between religion and culture makes the participation in fasting a grey area.
From a cultural perspective:
I am here, living in Morocco as a guest and I alter my behavior on a daily basis to show respect for the culture and to integrate into my community. I will be here for the next two years, and the success of my work is dependent upon the relationships I build with Moroccans. If I view fasting during the month of Ramadan as purely a cultural practice, participating seems like a no-brainer. If a Moroccan wished to join my family for Thanksgiving dinner, I would welcome him/her with open arms.
From a moral perspective:
Because Ramadan isn’t just a cultural practice but also a religious practice, fasting holds a much deeper weight. There is a meaning attached to my partaking in Ramadan. I wonder what Moroccans think when they hear of non-Muslims fasting. Do they see it as a sign that one is open to converting? Do they see it as a form of appropriation or acting in order to conform? Though many others may feel comfortable just going with flow in order to fit in- that is not my personality. I am uncomfortable with doing something so significant and weighted, such as fasting, in order to gain the acceptance of my peers.
From a social perspective:
Almost every Moroccan friend of mine has asked me if I plan to fast. To be honest, up until recently, I had every intention to do so and replied accordingly. Now, I find myself avoiding people in fear that I will be forced to lie or that they will check my tongue to see if it is white. I value genuity, I don’t see lying as an option, but I do not want to be socially out casted due to my candidness. I am also struggling with the numerous ‘Lftor’ invitations I’ve received. Is it appropriate for me to breakfast with Moroccans and take part in the evening celebrations if I did not actually fast? Should I avoid ‘Lftor’ all together? Or should I try to fast on the evenings I am planning to attend ‘Lftor’?
From a health perspective:
I am reluctant to criticize the health benefits of Ramadan fasting, but I will say this: My body is still adjusting to my new lifestyle in Morocco and though not eating could be beneficial, not drinking water would definitely make my health issues worse. I understand that those who are sick are not obligated to fast. However, if I told my community that I wasn’t fasting because I’m sick, would they interpret it as a falsehood and cover-up to get out of fasting?
I consulted with some fellow Americans, also currently living in Morocco, to hear their positions on fasting. Most feel that it is an important step in their integration, and are planning to fast for part, if not all of Ramadan. Some expressed that they will not participate simply because they aren’t Muslim. Some others who are Christians, feel that they can identify with the practice of fasting and view taking part in Ramadan as a great privilege.
Having lived in Morocco for the past six months, I have greatly enjoyed experiencing the Moroccan culture. I have heard much hype about the month of Ramadan and had high hopes for the celebration. Now that Ramadan has begun, instead of sharing in the excitement, I am burdened with the question of where I fit into it.
For all of the Moroccans reading this who identify as Muslim, I ask: What do you think about non- Muslims fasting for Ramadan? Is it cultural appropriation? Is it necessary to show respect? Or is it insignificant either way? As a guest in your country, I would gain much from hearing what you have to say.
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