You do not have to share others' beliefs, but you should respect them

For followers of Islam across the world, including some 5,500 in the canton of Zug, the holy month of Ramadan begins today, meaning that, for thirty days, they are not expected to eat or drink during daylight hours.

Among the followers of Islam in the city of Zug is Suna Trüb-Coban (photpgraph), who runs the Ecem market shop on Poststrasse, which sells Turkish and Kurdish specialities and food from the Balkan states. Not that she just sells them, she uses these exotic ingredients to cook and sell as prepared meals, too.

Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and going without food or drink during daylight hours for non-believers may seem rather strange. Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Zug Turkish Islamic Association, Dilaver Cicek elaborated further. “Whether people stick to it is up to them, but those who do have done their duty. If they do not, then it is only to god they have to answer to, and no-one else. It also means to feel an affinity with those who do not have enough to eat and drink under normal circumstances.”

In Islamic countries much slows down at this time, a nap during the day being the norm rather than an exception. Then, once the sun has set, things return more to normal.

For some business may prosper more, too, as Trüb-Coban explained how she sold more fruit and during Ramadan, some buying all their food requirements, including her ready meals, from her. “This is because they do not really feel like waiting until it gets dark to start cooking,” she said, as Cicek added how people often went without non-essential foods and gave up smoking during this period. After supper the Terawih prayer is uttered, communally if possible.

As Robert Pally, a teacher of religious studies in Baar, explained, fasting plays a role in Christian tradition, too, inducing a period of contemplation, enabling people to concentrate on the essential, while learning to go without at the same time.

Naturally if one works in a profession which is physically demanding, going without food and drink for hours on end is very tough. Take Muslim football players, for example. Some adhere strictly to the rules, while others only do so on days they do not play. On the other hand, there are players, such as Tunisian Amine Chermiti, who used to play for FC Zurich and who now plays for Gazélec FC Ajaccio in Corsica, does not comply with Ramadan rules at all, “as professional football was invented much later”. Those who are exempt from fasting are children under the age of 15, old and sick people, the mentally handicapped, pregnant women and mothers with new-born babies. “In the end it is up to the individual to decide, opting between what he himself wants and what god wants,” said Trüb-Coban.

While the journalist of the Zuger Zeitung was engaged in conversation with her, another Turkish customer in her late thirties came in to buy some Iranian dates and heard aspects of the dialogue. “Myself, I believe more in a universal god who does not actually care whether one fasts or not. It is how you live your life that counts. And, by the way, it is not only during Ramadan that the food here is excellent. You get people here representing all sorts of views and different cultures and we all get on perfectly well with each other,” she said. This prompted the journalist to wonder why this did not seem to be the case across the globe.

For his part, Robert Pally felt that tolerance was necessary in inter-religious dialogue, i.e. when discussing with those who held different views. “You don’t have to share others’ beliefs, but one should respect them,” he said. “After all, we are all searching for the same thing, aren’t we?”

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