October 08, 2006

Moslems celebrate their "Lunar food & drama festival" aka Ramadan

Next will be surrounding the Ka'ba with advertising billboards like football stadiums to milk out petty pilgrims, why not?

If it was a matter of dedicating certain delicacies (Qatayif, Samosa …etc) to this season then I wouldn't have given this despicable state of affairs a flying thought, but what we're witnessing here is an outright exploitation of the holy month of fasting with total disregard to the true essence of it.

And mind you, despite my usual rhetoric tone, I'm not enflamed by the fact that the commercial exploitation of Ramadan is on the expense of its Islamic and sentimental values, no… for this only worries those who cohere to the Islamic doctrine on a daily basis, whether off-Ramadan or during the month, in which Ramadan act as a catalyst to do more of the good stuff they usually do.

But for others, it seems fair that during the month of Ramadan, if one feels unconvinced (too young, too hot or too tired) or simply can't be bothered with fasting, then the least that one could do is to refrain from doing so and go about his/her day as business as usual, but this isn't exactly what happens.

What we see before our blatant eyes is the transformation of Ramadan to a total different entity, with nothing left of its Islamic origin or its cultural evolvement, but a mutant commercially exploited month-long celebration driven by greedy corporates and oblivious recipients (that'll be us).

From a more analytical perspective, Ramadan became what it is now from right from the capitalising of two underlying features that engulf the fasting community: hunger and boredom, that's of course what's left for those who blindly practice fasting, others subtly find themselves stricken by those two.

It sounds fair that our heritage have in its luggage allot of dedication for Ramadan along other occasion, some with valid grounds, like serving high energy food and thirst-bashing & nurturing drinks and some merely found out of the blue, no harm in that, every other culture have its fair bit of seasonal food and drinks.

Here in Jordan, Circassian have their Shibs-ibwasta, typically served in winter time (seems like year round back in the Qoqaz though) and Christian minorities serve a special home-baked biscuits during their seasonal occasions, but I'm not sure how many cultures out there have Vimto and contemporary commercial products as a Ramadan household item?

I'm not sure either; if many other cultures allow themselves to be exploited and be manically rushed into a "a pre-Ramadan shopping spree", as if supplies will run out at some point in the near future, to the point that some supermarkets here rationalise the despising of Vimto at the rate of one bottle per shopper!

The amount of advertising spending for fast-moving consumer goods double, especially drinks, they litter the littered billboards with drinks and Ramadan-inspired food, as if to say that the sunset marks the cadence of one's average Ramadanian day… petty really.

I'm not disputing the commercial viability and what used to be a marketing ingenuousness of placing food & beverages products right in the face of hungry folks who are about to have their first meal after a long day! But how ethical is that I ask? Not from an Islamic perspective but rather in terms of the corporate responsibility towards respecting others beliefs and try not to exploit it.

If anything, demand should decrees during Ramadan, work the math out, people should be consuming less since they'll be eating less, how we managed to challenge the laws of supply & demand, I think I have a clue or two.

Then comes the matter of entertainment and TV, cinema, tents & theatrical drama (will its mostly comedy I know), and again I'm not disputing the business sense behind investing heavily on aligning premier stuff for Ramadan TV schedules and line up a number of movie releases and performances especially for this month.

This is a normal continuum of the despicable state of affairs of Arabs & Moslems in general, where the only industry they seem to be "good" at is the entertainment one, if only this accompanies some quality content… but alas, mimic societies are bound to have the cultural contribution of an amphibian frog.

So I have no problem (will I do, but you should know my theme by now) with Ramadan TV specials and all, except with the fact that its dedicated for and named after the month of Ramadan, it sounds utterly awkward and incoherent with the general theme of Ramadan and what it should typically entail and stand for.

The least that can be done is to continue offering the usual stuff without dedicating anything to the month! Its very disrespectful to those who adhere to the month and try to observe it thoroughly.

I humbly think that Moslems and non-Moslems alike (living in Moslem societies), the fasting and the can't-be-bothered-with-fasting folks alike, we should all take a strong stand against all greedy companies and supermarkets that try to milk us out during this holy month and gradually diminishing its genuinely distinct essence.

A boycott movement if you like, against every exploitation of the month of Ramadan, in sheer respect for what Ramadan stands for and what it means to those who try to sincerely observe it, and happy Lunar food & festival everyone, and Ramadan Kareem to the observing few.

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