Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ramallah Vice

Cigarettes didn't exist in the seventh century. Nor did cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff. So, there appears to be no explicit Qu'ranic prohibition against this vice. Still, Ramadan presents a dilemma. Is smoking cessation part of fasting. (Part of me says "smoke 'em if you got 'em -- they're an appetite suppressant, right? You caught Allah in a loophole.)

Well, of course, devout Middle Eastern Muslims see it a little differently, and so Ramadan (is) Difficult for Muslim Smokers:

It's the fasting month of Ramadan, and fear of God keeps taxi driver Abdel Karim Romaneh from reaching for the pack of cigarettes next to his gearshift during the day, despite his pounding head and frazzled nerves.

But once the sun sets and the call of "Allahu Akbar'' from Ramallah's mosques ends the daytime ban on food, drink and cigarettes, Romaneh indulges in his favourite vice.

"I don't want to quit smoking,'' said Romaneh, 42, who lights one Gauloise Light with another, inhaling deeply in between sips from a glass of thick Arabic coffee. "Smoking is a joy.''

You tell 'em, brother.

While a number of Islamic organizations are running anti-smoking campaigns in Britain, and the National Health Service is handing out nicotine patches at mosques, imams are debating whether a fatwa is in order, to declare smoking "haram" (forbidden in Islam). This could be a tough sell, since there are really no other tolerated vices available. And the stats don't lie (well, let's just pretend they don't):

Smoking is embedded in the culture of many Muslim countries. About 63 per cent of men smoke in Jordan; 49 per cent in Tunisia; 42 per cent in Syria; 38 per
cent in the Palestinian territories and 28 per cent each in Lebanon and Morocco. Few women smoke because of cultural taboos.

So, best of luck to the Ramallah taxi driver, the 63%, the 49%, the 42%, the 38% and the 28%, respectively. Don't let your frazzled nerves get the better of you. We wouldn't want any incidents.

Maybe this will help.

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