Muscat: Eat and drink in public during daylight hours in the Holy Month of Ramadan and you could be fined or face up to 10 days in prison, authorities have warned.
Quoting the Omani Penal Code Article 312/10 A, a Royal Oman Police (ROP) official said, a person may be imprisoned between one and 10 days and a fine ranging from OMR1 to OMR5, or any one of these punishments, if a person eats or drinks in public without a reason during the Holy Month.
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The police official also revealed that many nationals and expatriates were arrested for breaking the rule last year.
Ramadan, the much-awaited month in the Muslim calendar, is a time when Muslims across the world dip into an ocean of spirituality. For 30 days, Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk and embark on a spiritual journey.
A non-Muslim, Dr Sathish Nambiar, chairman, Indian Social Club, who had fasted for 18 years in the past to keep with the spirit of the season, says all non-Muslims must respect and follow the tradition.
“Though I had done it continuously for 18 years, I took a break for health reasons. I plan to start it again,” he said, adding, “We live among our local brothers; why we should not respect their tradition?”
Highlighting the virtues of fasting, he said, “It is advisable for everybody’s well-being.”
Advising the fellow community, Dr Nambiar said, “This is the rule of the land and my advice to all of them is to follow the custom.”
Sufyaan Khalifa, an authorised preacher by Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs in Bausher district and member of the Australian National Imam Council (ANIC), said, “Our fellow non-Muslims are exempt from the laws of Islam; it all goes back to them to eat or not. However, out of respect to their fellow Muslims, they shouldn’t do it publicly.”
He added, “If we refer back to the time of the Prophet (PBUH), there were no rules as to whether they (non-Muslims) could eat in public or not.”
However, Khalifa said, “My call to my fellow non-fasting Muslims who eat openly without any valid reason, I call them to fear Allah the Almighty and to just remember the coming moment when you stand by yourself before Allah tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, an official at the Muscat Municipality clarified that all restaurants and cafés should remain closed during Ramadan.
“Restaurants and cafés should start preparing food only from the afternoon,” he said.
The source, however, added that for the benefit of the non-Muslim labourers who completely depend on restaurants for their meals, the Muscat Municipality has issued licences to a number of restaurants to serve food to these groups during the day in Ramadan.
“But customers will not be allowed to enter the restaurants but the restaurants would have to deliver meals at the work sites,” he said. These meals should be consumed inside and not in the public. “The Municipality has a number of food inspection teams deployed in various areas in Muscat working in three shifts starting from eight o’clock in the morning until midnight,” said the source. He added that these teams monitor all the restaurants in Muscat.
With inputs from Tariq Al Haremi
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