View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramadan in Recession

The Wall Street Journal has an article this week in which it catalogs some of the downward trends that provide a difficult backdrop to the experience of Ramadan in 2009.

Scaling Back
In particular the WSJ mentions UAE companies scaling back on lavish iftar meals (usually seen as networking arenas), a drop in demand for businesses to sponsor a Ramadan tent (again business promotional opportunities), iftar being moved indoors to save on tent rental and air conditioning, hotels recording lower corporate bookings and the property and economic slump.

The question underlying this article is whether the economic hardship and compulsory belt-tightening is robbing Muslims this year of the joy that Ramadan normally brings.

Stealing Ramadan?
A related article appears in the popular Huffington Post. Adapting its message from the book by Dr Seuss, ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’, author Jamal Dajani, entitles his article, ‘How the Grinch Stole Ramadan.’

Terrorism and Murder
Dajani looks at the impact of the global downturn but he also notes other factors he believes have robbed the world of Ramadan this year, especially swine flu and terrorism. He specifically cites the recent instances of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia as illustrations of “the staggering statistics of Muslims killing Muslims.”

The writer highlights the intellectual difficulty that such slaughter raises:

“I never understood how someone could fast from food and water to perform one of the pillars of Islam and still order the killing of the innocent. Shouldn’t fasting begin by putting an end to the killing?”

99.9% of Muslims would say ‘Yes’ to Dajani’s question and would be spending this holy month, praying for peace to abound in all the dimensions of life throughout the world.

The small, evil minority poses painful questions for Dajani and for us all, but the exceptional examples should not be the measure upon which an entire religion is judged.

Ramadan Stolen in 2009?
People of genuine faith know that hardship and shortage of dollars cannot rob them of the joy of a holy season and the solidarity that is derived from being on this journey together. On the contrary, far from Ramadan being stolen, the festival credits believers with a richer significance at such a time.

Religion Thriving in Recession
Dr Harry Emerson Fosdick, who talked many Americans through the Great Depression and World War II, often spoke of the upside-down truth of how religion thrives in a time of hardship and recession.

The Uncle Remus story he often used involves Brer Rabbit who was helplessly stuck while Brer Fox was wondering how to dispose of him.

“Please don’t throw me in the briar patch,” Brer Rabbit pleads, prompting Brer Fox to do exactly that.

Because rabbits are at home among the briars, the resourceful rabbit skips away proclaiming, “Born and bred in a briar patch, Brer Fox. Born and bred in a briar patch.”

People of faith would echo the rabbit’s chorus. The year of 2009 is tough but the difficulties make us consider the things that are most valuable and enduring. Far from these painful experiences putting an end to us, Fosdick reminds us of the countercultural truth, that religious faith is “born and bred in a briar patch.”

Ramadan Mubarak!

Stefania Bianchi, Ramadan Feels the Pinch, WSJ, 21 August 2009.
Jamal Dajani, How the Grinch Stole Ramadan, Huffington Post, 21 August 2009.

On Related Sites
Ramadan 2009 Prayer Timings for Fujairah UAE, Fujairah in Focus, 21 August 2009.

America’s Cup Makes History Today, America’s Cup in the UAE, 22 August 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

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Image: “UAE companies are scaling back on lavish iftar meals (the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during Ramadan).”