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Minister's Directive for Ramadan

Zanzibar tourists threatened with jail for eating during daytime?

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Aug 17, 2011

(eTN) - Disturbing news emerged from Zanzibar overnight when it became known that a minister in the Zanzibari government had made public demands that police arrest anyone seen eating or drinking in the day time during the current month of Ramadan.

"Anyone eating and drinking in public, as well as opening a bar, guest house, and restaurant is committing an offense. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days, in which participating Muslims fast or refrain from drinking, eating, and sexual intimacy with their partners during daylight," the minister was quoted as saying in public.

The minister dismissed questions as to whether this applied to Christians and tourists who were not compelled to follow Islamic tradition. This caused panic and alarm among operators of tourist hotels and beach resorts on the islands of Zanzibar, as no one could immediately ascertain if this extra judicial order would be extended and applied to the thousands of tourists presently holidaying on the islands.

Said one regular source from the island, in view of the sensitivity of the matter under strictest anonymity: "This is a disastrous order. Does the minister even know how many tourists are here right now? This is high season. If we tell tourists they cannot eat or drink or should not have sex in their rooms during daylight, they will first laugh at us, and then sue us for whatever we are worth.

"I believe even for Muslims, they are free to obey or not to obey those rules as they choose, but if we try to impose this on non-Muslims visiting Zanzibar and spending their holiday here, or on the Christian minority who live here, we are making a mockery out of our hospitality. That minister has a stone age view and no wonder tourists who have picked up on this already spread this ridiculous ‘directive’ on Twitter and Facebook and other social media. It makes us a laughing stock, really!"

Another resort operator warned of the consequences should police enter any of the beach resorts at lunch time or during the day and attempt to arrest tourists sipping on their drinks, having breakfast, or eating lunch or having tea claiming: "This might destroy our reputation for a long time to come if there is even a single arrest of a foreign visitor over this uncalled for directive. The minister should have been either precise to apply it to practicing Muslims or best shut up altogether before opening his big mouth."

Meanwhile, no such fears exist apparently along the resorts of the mainland beaches of Tanzania, nor among the resorts along the Kenyan coast, where a regular source from Mombasa said: "If this is true, it can only do them damage. We here in Mombasa serve our tourists, and there are no such impositions. Even 20 or 30 years ago we served our tourists during Ramadan because we do not discriminate either way. But for the sake of our colleagues in Zanzibar I only hope that no tourist is being dragged from a resort dining table at lunch time, or from the beach bar of a hotel and taken to court, because that could finish them off."

Zanzibar tourists threatened with jail for eating during daytime?
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