It’s that time of the year again when my Muslim friends begin their fasting. As someone that CANNOT stand hunger, I’m always impressed by their superhuman abilities to go so many hours without food.
Like many others who do not fast, I abstain from eating and drinking in front of them. It’s a habit that was instilled in me since young: don’t ever eat in front of someone who is fasting. My mom used to tell me “Pity them lah, they can’t eat, so don’t do it in front of them.”
I did it because I didn’t want to make them feel worse. But sometimes I’d forget and end up drinking/eating in front of my fasting colleagues anyway.
Which made me wonder,
For this, I asked a few people in my social circle.
Fazil – Currently Fasting.
Look, if the faster is well-educated and knows that Ramadhan is all about resisting temptation, he or she should treat people eating normally. I have people eat in front of me all the time, and I don’t mind it one bit. By now, I’m used to it.
In the end, Ramadhan is not about having temptations taken away from you, it’s about going through your fast DESPITE those temptations.
To me, it depends on how you were brought up. Some are chill about it, but others may feel like eating in front of them is the equivalent of not respecting their religion.
My advice? It depends on your social circle. If most fasters are generally ok with you eating in front of them, then go ahead. But if not, then it’s best to reconsider.
Jess – Not Fasting
If I go to a restaurant, and If I am with people who are not fasting, then of course I will eat. I won’t hesitate to eat my drink and eat my food, even if it’s not time to buka puasa.
However, if it’s with a friend who is fasting, I’d feel uncomfortable doing it in front of them.
Take it this way: If you genuinely care and respect this person, and he or she is staring at you eat and drink when they can’t, then isn’t it rude?
Don’t think of it as what you can or cannot do, think of it as what you want to do for another person. Especially if that person is your friend. It’s just not very nice.
Adelyn – Currently Fasting
As someone who is fasting, I don’t think that it is rude at all. Most of us are quite ok with controlling our impulses, and we don’t expect anyone to check themselves because of us.
But I must admit, being around people who can eat does make me hungry. If I’m at work, just smelling that cup of coffee is already bad, but the worst is when we can hear people chewing. Imagine being hungry and trying to focus on our work at the same time? Yeah, not easy.
But that doesn’t mean that I will tell that person to stop eating, that would be not nice at all.
My advice to non-fasters? If you feel bad about eating in front of your fasting friend, then just ask! If you want to munch on something, just tell us, because that way both parties are respected.
Dennis – Not Fasting
My best friend is someone who fast, and I eat in front of him during lunchtime. We are both totally cool with it.
Not too sure if our relationship is special or not. But I think many other friendships are like that too.
However, snack times and tea times in the office are quite sensitive. I don’t know if others are as chill as my friend, and I don’t want to be labelled as that insensitive jerk in the office.
I don’t really ask people if I can eat. It’s either I don’t do it, or I do it in private. It’s best to be respectful to people of different cultures.
In the end, its mutual tolerance and understanding, which is what makes our society so great. It is nice to see people practicing camaraderie in making sure that those fasting feel comfortable.
While I am privileged to have a social circle that is relatively tolerant, I cannot deny that not everyone has the same mentality.
I know that there are fasters who bully others by giving judgmental looks if someone eats in front of them.
I also know that there are people who purposely eat a nasi lemak bungkus in an open office space simply because “It’s not my religion that’s fasting, so why should I bother?”
In the end, we all have a choice during this fasting season.
We can choose to be a tolerant, decent human being.
Or we can choose to be an ignorant asshole.
What is your choice?
For more articles on tolerance read What Are Things Malaysians Could No Longer Tolerate, as They Become Older, and Brunei’s Sharia Laws: Here’s What Bruneians Think of Them.