Palestinian Authority cracks down on public eating during Ramadan

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RAMALLAH — For the first time in years, the Palestinian Authority
has launched a campaign to enforce fasting during the Muslim month of

The PA has been arresting people on charges of failing to observe the
fast month of Ramadan. In Nablus, six people were detained and one sentenced
to a month for eating in public.

Women shop in a store in preparation for the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in the West Bank city of Ramallah. /Xinhua/Chen Xu

“We have to monitor the streets and severely punish anyone who eats in public during Ramadan,” Sheik Yusef Idais, chairman of the PA Supreme Islamic Court, said. “This is the responsibility of the security forces.”

PA sources said the arrests marked a campaign to bolster Islamic
observance in the West Bank. They said the campaign was pressed by leaders of the ruling Fatah movement as part of competition with the opposition Hamas. The PA has pledged to hold municipal elections in late 2012.

“In the past, security forces did not get involved in such issues,” a
source said. “Now the PA wants to show that it is as Islamic as Hamas.”

Idais, appointed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in January 2012, said the ban on public eating pertains to all, including non-Muslims. About 10 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank are Christians.

“Our [Palestinian] streets are Islamic,” Idais said in an interview on
PA television. “Any person caught committing this sin in public
during Ramadan has to be imprisoned until the end of Ramadan, as an example
to others.”

Under Islamic law, Muslims cannot eat or drink from sunrise until
sunset. Idais said Islam does not allow any exceptions, including Muslims
diagnosed as ill.

Officials acknowledged that PA law does not call for the imprisonment of
those who eat in public during Ramadan. The Palestinian Legislative Council
has not met in six years in wake of the Hamas victory in 2006.

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