Amman authorities ban mixed-sex Ramadan iftar meal

Amman authorities ban mixed-sex Ramadan iftar meal

The municipality of the Jordanian capital Amman has banned mass, mixed-sex iftar, or breaking of the fast meal, citing "public decency" concerns.
3 min read
21 Jun, 2015
The iftar were held on Amman's iconic Rainbow Street [AFP]

In Ramadan 2013 and again in 2014, Ali Alhasani, a socially active young Jordanian, organised weekly public iftar events in Amman’s trendy Rainbow Street.

Participants in the event dubbed "Let's break our fast together", would bring home-cooked meals for the weekly collective feast. The event attracted both men and women, and families and children.

There were some voices criticising the event, mainly due to extreme sensitivity related to the holy month of Ramadan. Critics were particularly upset by mixing between the sexes and feared there would be public smoking of shisha, arguing this contradicts the spiritual climate of the sacred month. There were also concerns regarding harassment.

However, the event was a great success, Alhasani told Al-Araby al-Jadeed, as people soon saw for themselves that there was no ground for such concerns. The organisers did not allow music, dancing, and shisha smoking during the iftar, and security guards were hired, with no unruly incidents of any kind recorded. Officials from the municipality came to the event and were happy with what they say.

     The organisers did not allow music, dancing, and shisha smoking during the iftar.

So it came as a great shock to Alhasani and others who participated in the iftars when the Municipality of Amman decided to ban them this year, citing "public decency" concerns.

Khaled al-Qassad, an official in the Greater Amman Municipality, told a local newspaper [AR] that the event was banned for acts that "violate public decency" and "do not agree with the sanctity of Ramadan".

Qassad claimed the event was allowed in the past because the municipality mistakenly believed at the time that it had been organised by Islamic charities, but that municipality officials had found out otherwise when they visited the premises.

Alhassani strongly denies this. On his Facebook page, he is adamant that the terms under which the previous events were given the go-ahead were very clear to the municipality. To him, the ban is completely inexplicable.

To some Muslims, even those who are otherwise more liberal, Ramadan is an occasion to be exceptionally pious, so tolerance for anything seen as "immoral" is greatly reduced during the holy month. Jordanian society is also relatively conservative, and mixing between the sexes and public smoking by women remain controversial in some circles.

Predictably, the ban on the event has triggered an online and social media outcry [AR], though there were many voices supporting it. In some places online, the debate sometimes took on a sharp tone.

Critics of the ban stress the event does not violate public decency in any way, and have mocked the authorities for "double standards", by cracking down on "free" and "family-oriented" events while ignoring exclusive venues where Ramadan's sanctity is indeed violated, as they say.

They were also outraged by the supporters of the ban, who praised it for "preserving the sanctity" of the month. Some supporters of the ban had harsh words for the organisers, even accusing them of trying to spread immorality.

A prolific Facebook youth group called No to Chaos in Jordan wrote [AR]: "A group of young men and women want to have a mixed-sex iftar in Rainbow Street. What kind of Ramadan rituals is this? That's what we need: Frivolity in Ramadan. Have some shame, that is, if you're really fasting to begin with."

May Allah guide them, they (the organisers) understand Ramadan wrong! No they understand life wrong! The 'open-
minded' generation!

Khalil al-Awadi: "Iftar in Rainbow street banned for violating public decency. Aha. Amman municipality: what do you think they will do exactly!"

Amro Amro: The Greater Amman Municipality bans a collective iftar because it is mixed-sex. But it is okay for gays to meet sponsored by the US ambassador. What kind of stupid contradiction is this?