State-Enforced Starvation: Moroccans Arrested for Eating During Ramadan

On Wednesday, April 27, Moroccan police raided a cafe in Casablanca and arrested individuals eating and drinking during the daytime. The detained individuals were accused of breaking their fast during Ramadan.

Morocco, a Muslim-majority country, is observing the month of Ramadan, which runs from April 1 to May.

According to the local news agency Morocco Latest News (MLN), police arrested individuals “breaking the fast without a legitimate reason.” The majority of the detained individuals were young people.

The police did not arrest people working inside the cafe or the foreigners. However, the police included in their arrest the cafe’s employees.

According to MLN, the cafe is known to serve food and beverages during Ramadan and has been doing it for several years. Spectators were surprised to see the police making arrests in a cafe located in Casablanca’s economic center.

In Morroco, where Islam is the religion of the state, breaking a Ramadan fast in public is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison under Section 222 of Morroco’s penal code.

A video circulating on Facebook shows police escorting more than ten individuals from the cafe towards a police van. It is unclear how many of the arrested are customers and employees.

The Forum for Modernity and Democracy (FMD), an advocacy group that seeks to “counter the rising influence of conservative political and ideological currents on Moroccan youth,” condemned the arrest.

FMD called the arrest a “blatant violation of freedom of expression and belief.”

Ex-Muslims living abroad criticized the Moroccan government for unreasonable arrests. Milad Resaeimanesh, a member of Ex-Muslims of Scandinavia, accused Islamists of using Ramadan to promote themselves.

“We have to recognize the right to eat, drink, and choose if you would like to fast or not to fast,” Resaeimanesh added.

Other ex-Muslims showed their solidarity with those persecuted for Ramadan-related violations through social media. Maryam Namazie, an Iranian writer and campaigner, tweeted a picture of herself drinking prosecco. “Drinking prosecco with a tasbih in my hand while picnicking on the flag of the Islamic regime of Iran without its useless centerpiece,” she said.

The Twitter hashtag #STOP222 is also gaining traction among groups and individuals opposed to Section 222 of Morocco’s penal code. “I think it’s a good time to revive this debate,” it says.

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