‘It’s not disrespectful’: Malaysian man urges non-Muslims to eat, drink freely during Ramadan

An official using a telescope to perform "rukyah", the sighting of the new moon for Ramadan, in Putrajaya on March 22, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

You can eat and drink in front of me – that is what a Malaysian man hopes all non-Muslims will understand, as the country welcomed the month of Ramadan on Thursday.

Mr Shukri Saleh, who goes by the handle @ShukClimbWalls on Twitter, reassured non-Muslims around him that they can eat or drink, without either act being disrespectful. He also said there is nothing wrong with doing so.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. They also are not allowed to engage in sexual activities, use obscene language or smoke during that period of the day.

They are exempted from fasting if they are unwell.

Mr Shukri added in subsequent tweets that he has non-Muslim friends who used to hide from him to consume food or drinks. He said: “You don’t need permission from us (Muslims) to eat and drink.”

His tweets regarding Ramadan came a day before Malaysia’s Education Minister said that school canteens need not close during Ramadan.

Speaking at an event, Ms Fadhlina Sidek said it would be unfair for non-Muslim students to fast, just because their Muslim classmates are fasting, said news outlet Astro Awani in a report.

She also said non-fasting students should be given a proper space to eat and drink, and have the support and respect of their school while doing so.

“In the Malaysia Madani concept, we should be inclusive when it comes to respecting the Ramadan month so we need to let children know that Ramadan is a month of worship,” she said, referring to the “Civil Malaysia” slogan introduced by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

“At the same time, the process to understand other students should also begin, but it doesn’t mean they should be marginalised and leave no room for the children to eat,” Ms Fadhlina added.

“I don’t want a situation where students eat in the storeroom or by the drain.”

In previous years, some Malaysian schools have been known to ostracise the non-Muslim community during Ramadan.

In 2010, the headmistress of a school in Kedah told Chinese students that they were being “insensitive” after they were found eating in the school compound.

In another incident in 2013, non-Muslim students at a Selangor primary school were made to eat in the shower room, which also doubled as a toilet.

Mr Shukri, whose tweets were laced with humour, said he wanted to spread the word and meaning of Ramadan, instead of the non-Muslim community being stuck with the notion that they were being insensitive.

“Unless you’re eating Kenny Hills Bakers’ peach strudel in front of my face, then it’s an issue for me,” he said.

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