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At the same time, he pays his sons, ages 6 and 11, a dollar for every day they fast.
"I want them to be better than me," he said, sipping thick black Turkish coffee in an industrial district near Ramallah.
Raed said he doesn’t fast because his job is too difficult.
"That’s empty talk," countered his wife Nahla, 29. "It’s the cigarettes that are killing him."
Ramadan violators are expected to pray for forgiveness, fast to make up for lost days and give charity in recompense.
Religious observance in general has increased dramatically since the 1970s in the Arab world and other parts of the Muslim world, as political Islam rose to prominence and secular nationalist and leftist ideologies faded from the scene.
The rise of Islamic political parties in the region in the wake of last year’s Arab Spring protests is likely to reinforce this trend, said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center, a think tank.
The intensity of Ramadan coercion varies.
Most widespread is the closing of restaurants during daylight hours. Alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam no matter what month it is, often disappears during the holy month.
In Ramallah, where devout and secular live side-by-side, some cafes leave their doors coyly half open, a sign that it’s business as usual. One restaurant offers free soup for Muslims wishing to break their fast after sundown. Other customers can order booze. Police allow restaurants to operate normally in areas with a strong Christian minority and foreigners, such as biblical Bethlehem.
Almost all bars in Egypt shut down or stop serving booze. City bylaws in Jakarta, capital of world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, prohibit nightclubs, bars and massage parlors from operating.
In contrast, restaurants serving alcohol operate normally in Lebanon, with its large Christian minority.
And then there are the places where authorities take action.
In West Bank areas under the Palestinian self-rule government, police have detained 10 people for violating the fast in public, said police spokesman Mansour Khazamiyeh. Violators are generally jailed until Ramadan’s end. It’s also an offense in the Gaza Strip, ruled by Palestinian Islamic group Hamas, but police spokesman Ayman Batniji said nobody has been arrested yet.
Egyptian Islamic clerics issued a religious ruling demanding that the government ban public eating in Ramadan, even for the 10 percent Christian minority. Similar requests were made in the past before the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt this year, but so far the Arab world’s most populous country doesn’t enforce the fast.
Anyway, the biggest punishment for some is the guilt.
Abdul-Latif, a 45-year-old Afghan shopkeeper in Kabul, said he and his buddies sneaked some cigarettes — but he didn’t feel good about it.
"It would be such a shame if my family knew," he said. "It’s also shameful for me. When it becomes time to eat at night, everyone else enjoys it more than me. I know about my shame.
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