Question of rights and fasting   Leave a comment

One friend posted a question in her Facebook wall if “freedom to eat is a fundamental human right”. Very interesting question in the first day of Ramadan – the month of fasting for the Muslims! Unmistakably it was about mandatory fasting of Ramadan and it invoked a sizable amount of responses. Many argued that freedom to eat is a fundamental right and should not be infringed by mandatory fasting, as well as imposition of restriction on selling food and eating openly. Some objected that if they do not fast people show discontent or try to impose it upon them. Some were really annoyed to all these and almost revolted against. The protagonists argued that as it is about “religion” and “morality” it should be respected. Some thought as a large number of people are observing this ritual others should also be respectful to it.
Whether someone will follow a religion or perform a particular ritual is completely personal but many religions encourage its followers to do social chaperonage to ensure conformity of the whole society to it. Besides, all the societies have sort of inherent compelling mechanism to make sure its members will abide by its norms, including religious ones. Whether we like it or not it may happen, as well as the impositions of rules by state or other authority adherent to those norms.
But the most important issue concerned me here is the concept of right. Form some comments it appeared that they think right means one could do anything she/he wants regardless the circumstances. Is it so? If someone has a right means she/he could exercise it anywhere, everywhere, anytime, always! I am afraid that it is not possible. As every one of us has rights of different kinds we have to respect their rights as well. If my practice of right infringes the right of other of any kind, I am not allowed to do it. My right is only to that extent that does not encroach upon the right of another people (or being or entity); it is the precondition of entitlement of right. It is at the same time enabling me as well as restricting my ability.
Now, if we come back to the fasting thing, no one can force others to fast but encouraging or advising to be religious in certain way may not be violation of right. But hurting the sentiment and faith (including religious) of others and showing disrespect to them is a violation of right as it encroaches upon the dignity of that person (if religious or other kind of advice have the similar affect on a person that may be considered as violation of right as well). On the other hand imposing ban on selling and taking food openly could not be designated as violation of right as long as it does not limit the availability of food.
I personally believe that it is not necessary to restrict food selling and eating openly during Ramadan, but if it is done on the logic of respect to a substantial number of people, it could be accepted. But we have to make sure that such respect is shown to all religions, such as restricting cow slaughter in front of Hindus and so on; otherwise it will result in religious discrimination.  And, I strongly believe that it should be our moral responsibility as a human being to be respectful to others. If we wilfully abstain from taking food in front of a fasting friend or slaughter cow in a way that do not disturb our neighbours, it will only enhance mutual respect and rights. Then we need not bother with the annoying (sometimes sarcastic) state imposed rules. Religions and rituals are social matters not state affair.

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Posted August 2, 2011 by Abu Ala in Religion & faith, Rights, Society

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