If I were a Muslim…

…I’d be offended, too, although not for the stated reason:

[The UK] Home Office staff were officially warned not to eat in front of their fasting Muslim colleagues during Ramadan – in case it made them feel hungry.

The advice came in a taxpayer-funded internal document listing do’s and don’ts during the Muslim holy month, which ends this weekend.

The Home Office Islamic Network produced the five-page information sheet which says: ‘In practical terms, please be sensitive when eating lunch near a Muslim colleague who is fasting.

This can make an individual feel hungrier and make it more challenging to observe the fast.’

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which claims to be fighting a ‘political jihad against Islamophobia’, attacked the document. It said: ‘It is designed to create more hatred in the hearts of non-Muslims. We don’t care how much non-Muslims eat in front of us.’ ‘It’s never been an issue and never will be and we have never asked for any special treatment or sensitivity from non-Muslims whilst fasting.’

Bookworm writes: “…the protests came from Muslim groups, who felt as if they’d had a big target painted on them…”

In truth, this oversolicitous pandering of fasting Muslims by the UK government exposes a sort of racism: we are so afraid of you we’re going to go to unnecessary lengths to placate you.

I think the Muslims are right to be offended, but not because they are being targeted for “more hate.” They should be offended that their government thinks so little of them, that it feels the need to “help” them accomplish their fast.

This move by the UKHO is very insulting and condescending to all people of faith who engage in fasting, because it suggests that their act of faith cannot stand up to the world, that their faith is not strong enough to sustain them in their fast, that they need the “help” of the considerate nanny state in order to successfully make their sacrifice.

The state, which understands very little, does not understand that when one is fasting, the challenge of maintaining the fast while in the midst of others who are eating only makes the sacrifice that much more meaningful and valuable. The UK Nannystate is so accustomed to making everything “easier” for its citizenry, so in the habit of removing challenges from the lives of the English people, that it cannot understand the concept of purposely doing something difficult, challenging and self-abnegating.

The British Government no longer understands the noble and honorable concept of sacrifice. And whoever thought, 60 years ago, that anyone would ever write such a sentence?

As a Catholic who fasts on some holy days, I know I would be terribly offended if these silly edits came down to “help” me do that which I voluntarily do, whether duty-bound or in supplication, in order to “soften” my sacrifice, and render it both toothless and meaningless.

If I were a Muslim, I’d feel offended as hell.

The most beautiful word on the internet! Thanks, Glenn and welcome all – while you’re here please look around. I just noticed that both the White House and the Pope are calling on the artists, and thinking it reminds me of Stephen King’s The Stand.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Joe Odegaard

    Food is great stuff.

  • Bobfan

    I dunno, Anchoress, as someone who has a hard time giving up coffee for Lent, I appreciate this “faceless” bureaucratic, if spiritually clueless, consideration.

    [Being a statist, you would -admin]

  • Claudia

    Oh puhlease….Muslims have managed to fast all these years with out the cloying help of the British government, why start now?

    Hmmm,I wonder if the British government would be so keen to help Catholics in the workplace fast? That might be an interesting experiament if I were actually in Britian.

  • Ellen

    Will they be so solicitous toward Jews on Yom Kippur?

  • Scott Hebert

    The test, really, is as Ellen says: will they be doing this for other major religions on their major times of fast?

    Unfortunately, I do not know many world religions, and while Shinto (and most Japanese religions) rely heavily on purification (of which fasting or abstinence may play a part), and I do know Jews fast for certain days, the best analogy I know of is Lent.

    Therefore, if the UK sends out a similar message for Lent (just the Fridays might be acceptable), they are just being the condescending nanny state that we’ve come to expect from them (and governments like them). If, OTOH, they do not send out similar messages… that shows this is targeted nanny state shenanigans.

    In that case, Muslims should be even MORE offended (as it implies that Muslims ‘need more help’ to complete _required elements of their religion_), and non-Muslims will also be offended, and not only on the behalf of the Muslims.

    I would be the first to appreciate that people recognize that I am fasting (Ash Wednesday is the only day this generally happens) and are considerate about it… but this should be done on a personal level. When it is mandated on a top-down approach, however, not only is the outrage on the part of the religious a natural response, but those to whom the missive is directed will feel as if they’ve ‘accomodated’ their religious brethren, and feel that something should be given to them in return.

    This policy is a disaster in the unintended consequences department.

  • Andrew B

    This sort of government intrusion is worse than stupid, it is silly. The notion that I should avoid eating a cruller so that I don’t tempt my Muslim neighbors to temptation is ridiculous, petty and unworkable.

    Let us remember–many Muslims consider an uncovered female head to be a terrible provocation, far worse than me eating a hot dog. Perhaps the government should recommend that all women wear chadors, so as to avoid inflaming Muslim passions.

    Well, soon enough.

  • http://guardianoftheredeemer.wordpress.com Walt

    Just curious (not criticizing):
    Your fasting on some holy days sounds backwards. Doesn’t the church encourage celebration (i.e., more eating!) on holy days, and fasting on penitential days (or on any non-holydays)?
    Any special reason you choose to fast on holy days?

    [We fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, on Fridays in Lent we abstain from meat. Many Catholics, by personal choice) also make either Fridays or Wednesdays days of fasting. And we are encouraged to fast during times of intense spiritual work or prayer -admin]

  • Wolfwood

    The trouble may be that the British government (rightly or wrongly) seems to view Muslims as not being British. This means that they view their Muslims as being a problem, and have decided that the best way to deal with this problem is to try and minimize its potential damage. One day they may decide, though, that they’ve had enough of the problem and it would be better to eliminate it than to keep spending resources on controlling it.

    “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”
    -Will Rogers

  • Myssi

    I remember telling a friend who wasn’t a friend yet that I didn’t have anything at all against the heavenly smelling roast he had prepared for dinner, but that it was Friday so I didn’t eat it. He said, “If I’d known you kept Lent, I’d have made mango tilapia for you instead.” I told him, “That’s why I don’t tell people. If it’s not a sacrifice, it’s not a sacrifice.” He looked at me funny and I said “If you’d made tilapia, I wouldn’t be giving up anything, now would I? The 40 days in the desert weren’t easy for Christ and Lent shouldn’t be easy for me.” He smiled and said that he admired my commitment to my faith and that’s when I knew we’d be friends.
    I would never ask someone who wasn’t abstaining to do so for my sake. It’s *my* sacrifice, not yours. I am offended for those Muslims as well….ugh, how rude! And how little the world values or understands faith these days….something else to fast & pray about, I suppose.

  • dymphna

    I guess it’s because the Brits are scared of their Muslim population. The pandering won’ save them though.

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  • pst314

    “They should be offended that their government thinks so little of them, that it feels the need to ‘help’ them accomplish their fast.”

    But perhaps the British government is doing this because it has noticed that some Muslim nations, by law and custom, make it a crime for non-Muslims to eat, play music, etc. while Muslims are fasting.

  • Mickey

    Whilst I agree with your post in its entirety…as someone who’s spent some time in the Middle East, I feel compelled to add some color commentary…

    In both Muslim states where I’ve been assigned, it is common practice to do as the UK Home Office suggests…that is, it is considered very rude (and in Saudi, I think it is actually illegal) to eat, drink, or smoke in public during Ramadan.

    We were actually kicked out of a restaurant and the place was closed up, during prayer times…finished or not. That, btw, is not common…its more common for us non-Muslims to be shown to a room where the curtains are drawn during prayer times so we can continue to eat in peace…but don’t expect any service for those 15 minutes.

    The problem is, just as you write, that the State shouldn’t attempt to intervene where it has no business…of course that is a very Western idea. And a fairly recent one at that (see: Peace of Westphalia).

    Sort of gives “God Save the Queen” a bit of a different meaning, yes?

    [Interesting information, thanks. Doesn't UK move seem like it is encouraging its non-Muslim citizens to either eat-in-hiding or consider fasting, altogether? :-) -admin]

  • vive cristo rey

    I find it offensive that our own bishops think we cannot make it to a feast day mass unless they move it to Sunday. I can get to mass on other days of the week, really I can!

  • A.W.

    Mmmm, I don’t know. If i know a person is fasting, i try not to obnoxiously shove it in a person’s face. i mean i don’t care what your faith is, but if your faith is asking you to do something like that, i am going to try to, if not be supportive, at least try not to actively undermine them.

    [There is a difference, I think, between sitting at your desk quietly eating your lunch and "obnoxiously shoving it" in someone's face, no? -admin]

  • brzinski

    I agree, Anchoress. But being the spiteful soul that I am, my reaction was that if I lived there and worked with any Moslems, I would bring huge juicy pork sandwiches to eat with much gusto, blissful sighs, and smacking of lips.

    I used to want to live in England for a couple-three years, so I could experience it and use it as a base for exploring the deep history of all of Europe. Not any more, pitiful Britain. :-(

  • Trouble

    Government + good intentions = a big stinky mess. Same song, 782,354th verse.

    As an aside: I’m not Catholic, but back in my college days, a couple of friends and I used to treat my Catholic roommate to seafood dinners on Fridays during Lent. These led to some great discussions about the strength of the Spirit and weakness of the flesh, and we all enjoyed the opportunity to witness our faiths.
    Just sayin’.

  • http://lowlytuber.blogspot.com tim maguire

    I think it’s a great idea. They should produce a calendar with every date on which some religion calls for a fast so that everybody else can eat in a closet on that day.

    Lent is a little tricky. I propose a questionaire be passed around all government offices about a month ahead of time so that a tally can be made of all the things people are giving up. Then, about a week before lent, a memo can be posted with a list of what everyone should avoid.

    Perhaps a follow up about half way into Lent to delist the sacrifices that proved to be too much for the optomistic.

  • Darrell

    > If i know a person is fasting, i try not to obnoxiously shove it in a person’s face.

    Me too; it’s just basic courtesy, after all.

    If the feds make it an issue, however, I feel compelled to instruct them that it’s not really their decision to make for me, and shall eat as I please.

  • Bohemond

    Never mind that in Egypt last week, 18 Copts were sentenced to prison for eating in front of Muslims during Ramadan.

  • Bender

    In both Muslim states where I’ve been assigned, it is common practice to do as the UK Home Office suggests

    Yes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when you are a guest in someone’s home, etc.

    However, there is a difference in not eating a ham and bacon sandwich at our Muslim collegue’s desk, allowing bacon grease to drip all over his keyboard, and effectively being asked (made to) participate in the Ramadan fast with him while in your own non-Islamic home country, even though you are not Muslim yourself. There is a difference between basic common courtesy and dhimmitude.

  • JuliB

    Now let’s not forget that most US Catholics SHOULD abstain from meat every Friday!

    Our bishops released the meat eating requirement IF and ONLY IF we did some other act of penance instead.

    I’m not sure about anyone else, but I find it easiest to skip meat. Of course, my barely practicing Catholic SO doesn’t agree, so it is a bit of a challenge to keep practicing it when I cook on Fridays.

    If I forget it’s a Friday, I make a small donation to a charity instead.

    [Yes, this is something that really got lost "in the Spirit of Vatican II." Fridays should still be a day of sacrifice, whether that be abstaining from meat, or walking instead of driving, or whatever. -admin]

  • Bender

    And another problem, in addition to misunderstanding that every Friday is supposed to be a day of abstaining (or its substitute), is the idea that it is a “requirement,” much like Mass is an “obligation.” Actually, you are not required or obligated to do anything. God and His Church do not impose or force anything on anyone. It is entirely voluntary.

    That said, sadly, having such rules on fasting, etc., has led too many people to the overly legalistic idea that we do these things because we have to, rather than because we want to. For one to willingly and wantingly to engage in some sacrifice, and thereby join his or herself to the sacrifice and Passion of Jesus, in however small a way, is something that we should endeavor to desire to do, rather than acquiesce in it. Eventually, we should hope to step up and pick up the cross ourselves, rather than being pressed into service.

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  • Mickey

    @Anchoress: yes, it does!

    @Bender: I wasn’t trying to justify the Home Office’s behavior, just trying to provide some context. It’s likely a sincere (albeit misguided) attempt to encourage people to be nice.

    The irony is that since Britons have voluntarily abandoned both their church and creating new Britons by having less children, it is the Muslim immigrants who will soon need assistance in accomodating quaint Christian customs.

    On the subject of abstaining from meat on Fridays…I myself returned to that custom four years ago after read the Vatican II documents for myself. It seems Sister Moonbeam wasn’t quite as educated on the requirements of the Faith after all.

    It took several years to convince my family (mostly through my example rather than paternal fiat). I have many, many Catholic friends who simply don’t believe me, and assume I’m being judgemental when I make meal choices for myself.

    The “ecumenical” movement of the 1970s sought to adopt others’ practices to Catholicism…the irony is that we have a much longer tradition of things like comtemplative prayer, fasting, etc. than most of the “popular” religions of the day. The Catholic Faith is a treasure trove…and people are rummaging around in the “spiritual thrift store” instead of learning their own faith.

    So we get admonishments from the Home Office on Islam…when we should be celebrating our own heritage and teaching courtesy to others instead.

  • NanB

    Just wondering if Britain is as respectful to other religions as it is to Islam.
    “Londonistan” by Melanie Phillips is an eye-opener
    on this whole situation.

  • NV Smith

    -Apples, oranges and abstaining from eating…
    -Walt’s question on Catholic fast days illustrates how little we, collectively, know about the religious practices of others. Many religions have days of fast and for many reasons; in most cases these go unnoticed except by the participants.
    -I think that Mickey’s comments are off target in that he speaks of “Muslim states” where one may infer that Islam is the state religion. I’d certainly expect most restaurants to follow the rules of the state’s religious authorities.
    -I’ve been in a number of countries & had to adapt to a number of interesting religious and cultural practices. I came out of Yemen with TB probably due in part to Islamic practices.
    -Having said that, and recognizing how important freedom of religion is, I wouldn’t wave my pork barbecue sandwich in the face of a known Muslim, fasting or not. I’m equally careful about what I eat with Jews, Mormons, vegans and others, too.
    -I have had lunch with those who fast, in recognition that a meal is often a social occasion.
    -Was the government pandering to Muslims? I have no idea. Was it overdone? Probably.

  • Mickey

    @NV Smith…point of clarification. You’re right in that I probably used the term “Muslim states” imprecisely. I intended it to mean “where Islam is the predominant religion,” vs. “state religion.”

    In one case, Saudi Arabia, to my knowlege Islam is the only religion that can be practiced publically, and therefore the de facto state religion if not the official state religion. Travelling with the Catholic military chaplain underscored Christianity’s status in the Kingdom.

    Kuwait is probably the other end of the spectrum, where Islam is the dominant by numbers, but there is a Cathedral in Kuwait City that serves 60,000 Catholics from (mostly) India, Pakistan, and the Philipines.

  • brzinski

    Mickey said: ” … it is the Muslim immigrants who will soon need assistance in accomodating quaint Christian customs.”

    Shya, hold your breath and wait for that one … not.