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EGYPT: Police arrest 155 for failing to keep Ramadan fast

September 7, 2009 |  2:35 pm


Egyptian newspapers and human rights activists announced that 155 people were detained by police forces in Aswan, southern Egypt, for publicly eating, drinking or smoking during daylight hours in the holy month of Ramadan.

Islam requires the faithful to adhere to a dawn to dusk fast during the lunar month of Ramadan.

However, many of those arrested said that the arrests were random. Some claimed they were actually fasting when they were rounded up by police. 

"I didn’t break my fast, I was just buying a bottle of juice for breakfast time when officers [took] me away," one of the detainees told Al Youm Al Sabee newspaper.

The Ministry of Interior declined to confirm or deny the reports. But earlier, a high-ranked security source told journalists that a campaign against those who refused to fast would be launched to maintain general order and decrease crime during the Muslim holy month.

The arrests were strongly condemned by human rights activists, who said that such detentions have no legal or religious legitimacy. 

"Every person should fast according to his will. Consideration for other fasters is just something we do out of courtesy but it's not an obligation," Gamal Eid of the Arabian Network for Human Rights, or ANHR, said.

According to some, the campaign contradicts the Ministry of Interior's general policy against the spread of extreme religious thinking. 

"I find it strange to believe that authorities are always chasing religious or jihadist groups while they are adopting a procedure like that," said Negad Al Borei, head of the Institution for Democracy Development.

Khaled Ali, executive manager of the Hesham Mubarak Law Centre for human rights, accused the Ministry of imposing religiosity on citizens. 

— Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Minister of Interior Habib El Adli. Credit: Al Youm Al Sabee