By ELLSON A. QUISMORIO
July 30, 2011, 7:10pmMANILA, Philippines — As Islamic countries in the Middle East and Muslims in the Philippines start the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting and cleansing) Monday, August 1, a Filipino migrants’ rights group urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East and in other Islamic countries to closely observe the prohibitions imposed by the host governments during Ramadan.
“This is just to caution our fellow OFWs. Although non-Muslims are not obliged to fast, for instance, we advice our fellow OFWs to observe the religious and cultural prohibitions by the host governments with regard to the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is set to begin Monday, August 1, and lasts 29 to 30 days.
Aside from fasting, Muslims are prohibited from smoking and are expected to refrain from lust, violence, greed, envy, anger, sarcastic retorts and gossiping, and even making noise.
“Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided, too,” Monterona added.
Monterona said during past years, his group monitored a number of OFWs who were caught by the religious and cultural police locally known as ‘Mutawa’ for violating the customs of the host government. These are considered petty crimes and are punishable by imprisonment of up to a year, plus lashes.
“In 2009, as per Migrante-ME records, there were around 20 OFWs arrested. There were 35 nabbed for violations during last year’s Ramadan,” Monterona bared.
Filipino domestic workers need to be reminded, too, as many of them are expected by their Muslim employers to fast just like them during Ramadan.
Citing complaints received from runaway domestic workers, Monterona said that maids are required to do household and other chores from early morning until late at night during Ramadan.
“Thus, it’s no surprise that during Ramadan, the number of runaway OFW-domestic helpers goes up. They run away because they can no longer bear the treatment they’re getting from their employers,” he said.
Meanwhile in Libya, civil war or not, every year the holy Muslim month of Ramadan must be respected and in Libya’s rebel stronghold of Benghazi women bakers are working overtime to meet demand.
Dozens of women knead dough into shape, making sweets and salty pies, at the iconic Al-Harabi bakery, undaunted by the unrelenting war, sweltering temperatures, power-cuts and tight budgets.
Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, is due to begin on August 1.
Throughout the month, families get together to break the fast with lavish meals that must include olive and cheese pies and special Ramadan sweets.
The revolution launched in February to unseat Libyan strongman Moammar Khadafy has turned life in Libya upside down.
Men, the traditional breadwinners, left for the front line or lost their jobs, universities and schools closed, and businesses and homes were hit by daily power cuts.
As a result women have left their homes to look for jobs, with many finding a job al Al-Harabi.
“We had no money but I had free time so I started working here,” said Iman al-Jihani, 22, a medicine student who also volunteers two nights per week in the surgery department of Benghazi’s Al-Jalaa hospital. (With a report from AFP)