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"Anger Over 'Ramadan' Trial Delay":

BBC reports:

A row has broken out in France after a court postponed a trial, apparently because it was to take place during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Critics say the decision is a breach of France's strict separation of religion and state.

The trial of seven men for armed robbery was due to start on 16 September in Rennes.

But last week the court agreed to a request from a lawyer for one of the accused to put it off until January....

[The lawyer for one defendant], a Muslim, would have been fasting for two weeks and thus, he said, be in no position to defend himself properly.

He would be physically weakened and too tired to follow the arguments as he should....

The government's Minister for Urban Affairs, Fadela Amara, herself a Muslim, said it was a "knife wound" in the principle of a secular republic ....

The far right leader, Jean-Marie le Pen, for his part, said the French justice system had reached a new low....

(Note that the prosecutor denies the trial was postponed because of Ramadan, but others question the denial.)

Here's my thinking, at least as to similar questions that might arise in the U.S.:

(1) Generally speaking, the justice system allows a considerable range of modest delays for the convenience of the lawyers and of judges. In principle, I would think that a brief delay for a couple of weeks in order to accommodate a defendant's religious beliefs would be quite sensible. Certainly that's true for delays of a few days, if the concern is that the trial would fall on a defendant's -- or a witness's -- holy day, such as Yom Kippur or some similar Muslim holiday. If there's enough advance notice, then this shouldn't cause much trouble at all, and neither would it unduly interfere with the public's or the victims' interest in speedy justice. And if prosecutors don't object, then this seems little different from the sorts of scheduling delays that are pretty common in trials, especially when the prosecution and the defense agree.

(2) A delay of over three months is potentially more troubling. Witnesses' recollections may suffer even over those three months (especially if the trial would otherwise have been quite close in time to the crime). The victims may have to spend more time dwelling on the coming trial. And if the defendants are out on bail (not clear whether these one are) such a long delay may give them a material unfair advantage, since lots of us, religious or otherwise, would rather have an extra three months of freedom now than three months of freedom later. (True, some defendants may want closure as much as the victims do, but many don't, and would happily put off their prison term, again if they're out on bail.)

Much of the delay here of course has to do with the court's schedule. But when you move things around on short notice -- and it looks like there was short notice here, though I don't see why -- you'll certainly run up against other trials or other constraints on the lawyers or the witnesses, and you'll foreseeably have to put things off for some months.

(3) I've never fasted for a month, even just during the daylight hours. But it would surprise me if not eating from dawn until sunset -- while still being able to eat from sunset to dawn -- would leave people so weak that they can't follow the arguments at trial and help their lawyers as necessary. Presumably Muslims work normal jobs during Ramadan, and manage to do just fine, I take it because they can fill up at night and before dawn and therefore suffer modest discomfort more than debilitating weakness and fatigue. Perhaps this particular defendant has a special medical condition that exacerbates the effect of the daytime fast, but I saw no evidence of this in the news stories. So it looks to me like the case for the religious accommodation here is fairly weak, unlike a situation where a person has a religious belief requires him to spend all of one day in religious services.

(4) All this having been said, such a reaction in the U.S. would strike me as out of proportion to the problem, especially given the pretty routine ways in which criminal trials are often postponed, and not just for a few days but for months. (If in France there's a longstanding tradition against most postponements, I might take a different view as to this case.) The problem isn't that religious accommodations in the judicial system are somehow wrong; even a secular system, it seems to me, should at times accommodate the religious beliefs of its religious citizens. Rather, it's that this particular accommodation might cause too long a delay, and the asserted justification for the accommodation might be overstated.

Thanks again to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I agree with every word of this post.
9.8.2008 9:01pm
Dave N (mail):
I agree with the post as well.

I am wondering, however, if it makes any difference that France has an inquisitorial system for its criminal trials.
9.8.2008 9:16pm
Guest for the day:
I lived in Tunisia, a Muslim country. I didn't see the court system, but the whole country slowed to a crawl during Ramadan. It's a major problem for business.
9.8.2008 9:27pm
Gonzo:
They need a few retards like Opus Dei' Scalia out there.
9.8.2008 9:27pm
Bored Lawyer:
Maybe I missed this, but why does he need a delay until January -- nearly four months away? Ramadan is only a month. Furthermore, acc. to my quick internet research, Ramadan started Sept. 1st, so that it would be more than half way over by the time the original trial date was supposed to start (Sept. 16th).

So why wouldn't a delay of two to three weeks be sufficient?
9.8.2008 9:43pm
Mark E (mail):
"Justice Delayed is Justiced Denied"


Since only one of the alledged criminals is muslim enough to ask for a delay, I suppose that you could make a story for consideration of moving the one case.

The other 6 cases should go on as originally scheduled.

This is bad precedent.

Now, every muslim will be able to cite this case for an automatic delay in their case.

What's next, you can't arrest any of these 'youths' during Ramadan because it would hinder their religious observance?

Do christians get a free pass during the month of Advent or during Lent under this plan?
9.8.2008 9:46pm
ReaderY:
The trial was scheduled on September 16, 2 weeks into Ramadan, with 2 weeks left to go. Did the defendant actually ask for 3 months, or did the defendant ask only for 2 weeks and end up getting 3 months due to scheduling or other issues on the court's part?

As Prof. Volokh noted, in the United States delays of a week or two happen all the time and are no big deal.
9.8.2008 9:58pm
Ray (mail):

But it would surprise me if not eating from dawn until sunset -- while still being able to eat from sunset to dawn -- would leave people so weak that they can't follow the arguments at trial and help their lawyers as necessary.

Hakeem Olajuwon played several NBA playoff series while fasting for Ramadan. But a defendant can't contribute to his own defense because he's hungry?
9.8.2008 10:00pm
Hei Lun Chan (mail) (www):
Hakeem Olajuwon played basketball during Ramadan. I think this guy could have managed.
9.8.2008 10:01pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
The fast includes water as well, so the accused may dehydrate as the day goes on.
9.8.2008 10:17pm
FlimFlamSam:
Court rosters are often subject to these sorts of delays, particularly around Christmas-time. In my state, a two-week delay is almost impossible to get, but a three-month delay is common. It's because of the way cases are put on rosters.
9.8.2008 10:17pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

[The lawyer for one defendant], a Muslim, would have been fasting for two weeks and thus, he said, be in no position to defend himself properly.

He would be physically weakened and too tired to follow the arguments as he should....


They fast during the day- as I understand it, they more than make up for it at night.
9.8.2008 10:40pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I'm not sure as a prof. at a government school (community college), after the Smith case I have a constitutional duty to provide an accomodation for my Muslim students in this regard. However if non-discrimination in public education statutes follow the same rule as Title VII I think colleges would have to "reasonably accommodate" Muslim students' religious practice.

I've already had one student who I have accommodated in this regard and it didn't seem to be a big deal at all. I just let her take special breaks to eat after sundown.
9.8.2008 11:16pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I agree with the post too. I suspect that the outcry is not due to the unreasonableness of this particular request but rather to the fact that many French people are fed up with Muslims for reasons ranging from riots and terrorism to other demands for accommodation and so have an exaggerated reaction even to reasonable requests, just as they may react negatively to Muslims who are not responsible for the behavior that they find offensive.
9.8.2008 11:24pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
While I agree with the post, there is a question of just how accommodating a French prison is going to be when it comes to filling the needs of a fasting prisoner. Will the kitchen and dining rooms be open between sunset and sunrise? Prisons in Muslim countries, of course, make full accommodation.

Fasting Muslims break their fast at sunset. They usually eat a second meal around midnight before sleeping until an hour or so before dawn. Then they eat the meal that is going to last them through the day.

Outside of prison, this works out pretty well. Muslim pilots fly; doctors operate; offices to function.

Function decreases the deeper one gets into Ramadan, though. This, I think, is mostly due to disruption of sleep cycles rather than any weakness brought on by fasting. It has been reported in the Arab media that too many people actually gain weight during Ramadan because of all the eating after dark.
9.8.2008 11:42pm
neurodoc:
Ramadan comes 11 or 12 days earlier each year. So in the Northern Hemisphere the hours of daylight increase, and hence the fast becomes longer each successive year, until the year when it falls around the time of the summer equinox and is as long as it ever gets. After that the fast becomes shorter each successive year as the hours of daylight diminish, until the pendulum starts its swing back in the other direction after the winter solstice. The fasting is most burdensome on the observant when the holiday falls in height of the summer, with long days, especially if they are very hot ones. I imagine a Muslim who lives very far north, with extra long days, must really have something to bear up under for those 30 days.
9.8.2008 11:44pm
Smokey:
Did the Muzzie youts stop burning hundreds of cars a night in France during their Ramadan festivities?
9.8.2008 11:47pm
Where there is Smokey there is fire:
Is Smokey, here and elsewhere, trying to be an extreme version of Sarcastro, or is he serious?
9.8.2008 11:54pm
theobromophile (www):
I've never fasted for a month, even just during the daylight hours. But it would surprise me if not eating from dawn until sunset -- while still being able to eat from sunset to dawn -- would leave people so weak that they can't follow the arguments at trial and help their lawyers as necessary.

It depends, to a great deal, on the individual. I've met people who have fasted for days on end, without much of a problem at all. I was once required to fast for two days. It was a horror show, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to do much in a trial save look like death warmed over.

I seem to recall that there are certain people who are exempted from fasting, such as pregnant and menstruating women. Does the Islamic religion also make exceptions for those who are physically incapable of fasting?
9.9.2008 12:14am
Hoosier:
These defendants have not been convicted. But, speaking generally, wouldn't one's deep devotion to the keeping of Ramadan strictures give one an incentive not to, let's say, commit crimes? This would drastically reduce one's chances of having to worry about such probelms.
9.9.2008 12:15am
Cornellian (mail):
A day or two sure, trials get delayed for all kinds of minor reasons, but a month? No way.
9.9.2008 12:42am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I'll tell you what I'm praying for. I'm praying for a "kinder, gentler" version of Islam to emerge. Don't you think that has a better chance at taking hold than Dawkins, Dennett style atheism in the Middle East?

Where are the intellectuals who argue, at least exoterically that Islam is a "religion of peace"?

What?? You don't take that seriously. Well, you'd better, because that might be our only chance (or at least our least bloody chance) of establishing peace between Islam and the Western World?
9.9.2008 12:43am
neurodoc:
Does the Islamic religion also make exceptions for those who are physically incapable of fasting?
Yes.

BTW, I have been as learned as I am about the observance of Ramadan since last week when I heard "On Faith," a PBS radio show, about how the calendar shifting affects its observance. I still haven't the foggiest about how different lunar calendars work. For example, the Last Supper was a Passover seder, wasn't it, yet some years Passover and Easter fall close together, while in others they may be a couple of weeks apart. And Ramadan does these 11-12 shifts each year, until after 30(?) or so years it is back to the same time of year. In Israel is the Hebrew calendar only for religious purposes?
9.9.2008 1:32am
Kirk:
neurodoc,

The dates of Passover and Easter are tied to the Vernal Equinox (the first full moon after the vernal equinox for Passover, and the first Sunday after that for Easter, more or less.)
9.9.2008 2:13am
Kirk:
John Burgess,
Prisons in Muslim countries, of course, make full accommodation.
Good point. Sudan, for example, is particularly accommodating: you can be not fed by the prison any time of day you want.
9.9.2008 2:14am
one of many:
Hoosier
These defendants have not been convicted. But, speaking generally, wouldn't one's deep devotion to the keeping of Ramadan strictures give one an incentive not to, let's say, commit crimes? This would drastically reduce one's chances of having to worry about such probelms.



Now you're just picking a fight, devout Muslims do not commit "crimes", for did not The Prophet say "O you who believe, be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and he careful of your duty to Allah, surely Allah is Aware of what you do" and "Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good to others and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; He admonishes you that you may be mindful and fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have made a covenant, and do not break the oaths after making them fast, and you have indeed made Allah a surety for you; surely Allah knows what you do"? Obviously this prevents a devout Muslim from committing any "crime".
9.9.2008 4:52am
TruePath (mail) (www):
As a matter of US law/tradition I agree with your response.

However, I think your normative answer to the question (it's reasonable to accommodate religion in this fashion) is largely the result of absorbing the particular attitude the US takes towards religions, i.e., that religious beliefs are different and more important than others and hence deserve more protections.

---------

Now fairness considerations entail ideally religious beliefs should be treated like any other belief. For instance the space colonization zealots who have the same kind of fervor about their belief in the importance of manned spaceflight and the like as many christians do in christ's resurrection should be given just as much consideration for this belief as the christian (maybe more see below). To not do so is to discriminate (mildly) against atheists/agnostics whose strongly felt beliefs generally get less protection as they cannot weave them into a religious narrative.

Thus whether or not this particular situation is an breach of equitable treatment of religious and secular beliefs turns on whether or not someone with a non-religious belief with similar implications would be treated similarly. I can't be certain but my intuition is no.

Suppose instead the defendant spent that month every year preparing/competing in some kind of grueling (amatuer) competition. Would he be given an extension? Though this competition would also leave him exhausted and participation may be of extreme importance to him I suspect the answer is no. Thus it seems on the face of it this extension is the result of pro-religious bias.

Now some might respond that competitions tend to be things people do because they want to do them while they engage in religious practices because they feel it is obligatory. However, on closer inspection this distinction breaks down. The man engaging in the competition may have promised his dying brother that he would compete every year
or if it also raises charitable donations perhaps he feels he owes it to the community. On the other hand many religious individuals are willing to skip or cut back on their religious obligations if something that find sufficiently compelling (like football tickets) come up.
The mere policy of granting someone the benefit of the doubt about their level of care/feeling of obligation because what they do is part of some traditional practice involving worship is itself pro-religious discrimination.

-------

However, the case against this sort of accomodation is actually much stronger than this (though most of you will reject this point). Suppose the defendant asked for a continuance because he believed the courthouse would be struck by lightning and burned on friday the 13th because he thinks that he has a formula relating dates of lighting strikes to street addresses, e.g., a totally false but non-religious belief. In this case the court would surely not even pause to consider granting the continuance. Crazy false theories are't reasons to delay the case. However, religious beliefs are almost universally strongly repudiated by the evidence and incoherent to boot. Thus it would seem true equal treatment would require that we treat religious beliefs like obviously false crackpot theories regardless of the fact that many people believe them.

--

Now as a purely pragmatic matter in the US it may make sense to give religious beliefs special deference since statistically people tend to much more quickly lose faith in the society/culture if it is their religious beliefs they feel were not respected. Certainly, at this point in history it is not possible to treat religious belief as it should be (the same way we treat the theory that napolean was actually an alien) without causing harmful unwanted consequences.

However, it seems quite plausible that in france, while still needing to treat religious beliefs as plausible reasonable things, need not give to religious beliefs the special deference we don't give to other personal desires and projects. Indeed, if this is actually the traditional approach it is quite important to protect this. France needs to be more considerate of their immigrants but they should not start giving religious beliefs extra deference merely because the new immigrants don't respect the secular system that treats religiously motivated desires like any other personal desire.
9.9.2008 8:30am
TruePath (mail) (www):
To clarify I think the right answer is to create a fully general system of accommodations not to screw over the religious individual.

For instance when I was teaching at Berkeley students who informed us at the start of the term that they had a religious holiday conflicting with their final/midterm/etc.. were given an alternative time they could take these tests instead. However, if you had a family reunion on that date every year, went to south american to help orphans, or even waited in some field in Iowa for aliens to land no such accommodation would be given. Thus the individual who has never missed a family reunion and knows that this may be the last year she may get to see her grandparents is screwed over while the student who attends religious services only when it doesn't inconvenience them too much is benefited.

The wrong way to handle this situation is to deny everyone the chance to take the exam at another time. The slightly less wrong way is to decide using human judgment on a case by case basis since this asks the teacher to decide what the student can reasonably care about, encourages deception (another death in the family) and doesn't deal well with private issues.

The right answer is to assign each student a certain number of points they can use to request they be given some exam on a different date. As long as these points are sufficently sparse and must be invested at the start of the term everyone should be better served. Once we put our mind to it I hope similar solutions can be found for other situations where religious individuals would suffer if they were not given allowances while remaining fair to non-religious needs.
9.9.2008 8:48am
PhanTom:
A three month delay doesn't surprise me in the least.

It has to do with how courts calendar trials. In Colorado, when you show up for trial, you're likely to find 3-4 other cases set for trial on that same date. The court will then continue all but the oldest case for another date in the future. Often, that date is 8-15 months out.

It's very rare for a case to go to trial on the first setting.

In criminal cases it's just the same, speedy trial rights notwithstanding. When I was with the public defender's office, we'd have 6-8 misdemeanor cases set for the same date. The judge would take the oldest case and continue the remainder. Because we did not have enough public defenders to try the cases, our clients were deemed to have waived their right to a speedy trial. Of course, this analysis leaves out the fact that there were not enough judges or district attorneys to try those cases.

--PtM
9.9.2008 9:00am
Kirk:
PhanTom,
Because we did not have enough public defenders to try the cases, our clients were deemed to have waived their right to a speedy trial.
Very interesting. If you hire your own attorney, obviously that excuse doesn't apply, but you make it sound like the court is so backlogged it wouldn't really matter. What if you insisted on a speedy trial (e.g. you're sitting in jail and can't raise the amount of bail?)
9.9.2008 10:36am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmmm.

So I take it a criminal in Saudi Arabia or Egypt would have his/her trial delayed until after Ramadan?

I seriously doubt it.
9.9.2008 11:18am
Tony Tutins (mail):

To clarify I think the right answer is to create a fully general system of accommodations not to screw over the religious individual.

My fear is that such accommodations would be too easy to abuse. As they have done in previous years, last summer, state bar authorities accommodated Jewish bar exam takers in New York and California by rescheduling their Tuesday sessions of the bar exam for a few days later. The reason was the same reason given by the Muslims here: their religious faith required them to refrain from all food and drink, on Tisha B'Av.

But this accommodation made it possible for unscrupulous bar takers to find out the subjects of Tuesday's essays, either from bar taker chatter or from chat groups on the Internet, thus allowing them to focus in on them during their last minute review, or even to pre-prepare answers to memorize and regurgitate once inside. The advantage in being able to submit the most complete and well-thought-out answer possible is obvious.

So if a bar taker tried to use the excuse that Tuesday was their perennial family reunion date or their sister's wedding, the bar authorities should just say, too bad.
9.9.2008 11:21am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmmm.

A bit off topic:

I didn't fast, as per, but I was on a clear liquids diet for the last two weeks because of GI tract trouble in the hospital. And during that time I was able to read my way through about 1,700 pages of computer manuals concerning .NET development.

So frankly I can't say that I buy this argument very well. True I got to "eat" during the daytime, water &clear broth, but there wasn't any sort of equivalent feasting at night. And I'll most assuredly put up 1,700 pages of .NET computer manuals against any sort of trial participation.

Frankly at this juncture I'd even suggest forcing prisoners to learn .NET architecture and development as an alternative to incarceration because it would be much much crueler.

It could even replace waterboarding.
9.9.2008 11:25am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Tony Tutins:


My fear is that such accommodations would be too easy to abuse. As they have done in previous years, last summer, state bar authorities accommodated Jewish bar exam takers in New York and California by rescheduling their Tuesday sessions of the bar exam for a few days later. The reason was the same reason given by the Muslims here: their religious faith required them to refrain from all food and drink, on Tisha B'Av.

But this accommodation made it possible for unscrupulous bar takers to find out the subjects of Tuesday's essays, either from bar taker chatter or from chat groups on the Internet, thus allowing them to focus in on them during their last minute review, or even to pre-prepare answers to memorize and regurgitate once inside. The advantage in being able to submit the most complete and well-thought-out answer possible is obvious.

So if a bar taker tried to use the excuse that Tuesday was their perennial family reunion date or their sister's wedding, the bar authorities should just say, too bad.


Well more preciscely I favor a fully general system of accomodations in those situations in which giving religious accomodations is a workable solution. I mean if general accomodations make it too easy to gain an advantage than so too do religious accomodations. In your particular example it seems like you have a good argument for doing away with any accommodation at all. After all there are plenty of immoral religious individuals who can gain the same advantage.

Also you seem to get the sense that the kind of system I'm imagining would require people to give some excuse. That's exactly what I want to do away with. Except in extreme circumstances neither the school, state nor workplace should care what your motivation is for wanting to use an item from your stock of accommodations.

I mean one thing I really disliked about the way things are usually run in college is that as a professor you decide if the student has a good enough excuse. But this is pure discrimination against the abnormal since someone who has a very bizarre but strong desire won't get the same reception as someone who has a standard one (death in family).
9.9.2008 11:54am
libertarian soldier (mail):
I haved lived in three Muslim countries, and work does slow to a crawl--or stop altogether--during Ramadan. Also, you should remember that France (legally and theoretically) views religion very differently than the US. where we base our law on not establishing a particular state religion, their's is based on the state not recognizing religion as a distinguishing factor--except in Alsace and Lorraine (which were German possessions in 1905 and so are exempt from provisions of the law, which is why the state still subsidizes religous institutions such as seminaries in those two regions).
9.9.2008 3:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I once did a thirty-six hour fast when I was in college. Low-stimulus activities such as sitting in class or studying were increasingly disrupted by thoughts of food.
It's one thing to have hunger pangs, which are superficial bothering you. It's another to have low blood sugar affecting your thinking and perceptions.
Still, the first twelve hours were a snap.
In the Army, I was frequently hungry due to irregular feeding and small portions (I was a pretty fit 220 when I graduated college and 205 when I graduated OCS). But I didn't have long, long periods with nothing at all, if only a couple of sugar cubes or the coffee envelope from C-rats.
If I skip breakfast, which I sometimes do, I'm twelve hours from going to bed--presumably but not necessarily right after a snack--and lunch. No big deal. Twelve hours is the average Ramadan fasting time. Shouldn't be a big deal.
However, the question is for the attorney, I would think. Is the defendant sitting there during the trial remembering things he should have told his attorney earlier? Does he whisper "He's lying." to his attorney during a witnesses' cross examination?
What does the defendant actually have to do during the trial hours that fasting would affect?
9.9.2008 5:33pm
Grigor:
I never eat breakfast. When I am in trial or in deposition I normally don't eat lunch, on the theory (which may not be medically accurate but works for me) that the blood flow which would otherwise be digesting food is instead available to my brain. As a result, by dinnertime I haven't eaten anything all day and in fact haven't eaten for 20 hours or so. Sure, I'm hungry by then, but hardly non-functional. And if it's a trial or a long deposition this goes on for several days at a time. I'm not more physically fit or super-healthy than others, probably below the 50th percentile. So I really don't understand what the big deal is about daytime fasting, at least in the temperate latitudes.
9.9.2008 9:28pm
PhanTom:

What if you insisted on a speedy trial (e.g. you're sitting in jail and can't raise the amount of bail?)


It didn't matter. Unless there were public defenders present to handle the cases, the judges held that our clients waived the right.

--PtM
9.10.2008 1:11am
Kirk:
PhanTom,

Thanks, but by quoting just part of my question you leave me in doubt. To clarify, if you aren't depending on a public defender, do they find some other excuse for not rendering a speedy trial?
9.10.2008 3:23am
titkaille (mail):
You are clearly misinformed, I am from France and journalists made a story of inaccurate facts. The general attorney responsible for this decision clearly said that it wasn't because of the Ramadan and he would never accept that a Justice is delayed for a religion or another...and he is the one who took the decision!! why would he lie!

It is a coincidence that this decision has been taken during Ramadan...(the reason of the delay being confidential) but journalists and various people again took this as another argument against Islam...
9.10.2008 7:00am
Litigator-London:
As a Muslim practising in the UK and with experience of many jurisdictions where Islam is the state or dominant religion;

1. The Courts in the UK or elsewere would not normally accommodate a requires to defer a trial for the 28 days of Ramadan, if for no other reason, that where a person is unable to fast for some good reason during the month, he may fast on substitute days. The Court does accommodate the great fstivals - just as it does for the Jewish High Holidays.

2. It is true the official working hours change somewhat during Ramadan, but I am aware that a major conspiracy to defraud trial with many defendants (concerning a failed bank) sat during Ramadan in Algeria.

3. Islam does not require fasting from a person who is infirm, or engaged in heavy work, or has other good reason not to fast - I think the stress of a trial would qualify.

The poster above who suggested that work crawls in Arab countries during Ramadan was absolutely correct. People stay up late and go visiting - and get to bed late- then they are sleepy the next day !
9.11.2008 8:24am
Litigator-London:
PS - Fasting is from first light to sunset only - abstinence from food, water, tobacco, sex, immodest behaviour, and rudeness or other bad behaviour !

For me, the hardest part has always been the no-smoking bit !

Finally, yes, the further from the Equator, the longer the fast in Summer and the shorter in winter (Islam uses a lunar calendar). But in the far North, say North of Scotland or Norway - it is generally considered OK to adopt Mecca time so as not to make the obligation too onerous.

The real obligation is not the abstience per say but the frame of mind - like one should seek to make up quarrels during Ramadan.
9.11.2008 9:14am