Time To Quit? For Smokers, Ramadan Is An Ordeal - And Opportunity

During the month-long Ramadan fast, Muslims have to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk. A look in Morocco, when an extra burden for those who can't indulge in their nicotine habit. But there may be a silver lining.

Puffing away in the medina (USAFE public affairs)
Puffing away in the medina (USAFE public affairs)
Elimane Sembene

RABAT - Mustapha started smoking when he was 11. He smokes about 30 cigarettes a day. It is a habit that makes it impossible for him to fast regularly during the month of Ramadan.

"I fast, but sometimes I just can't," says *Mustapha. "I miss the nicotine or the morning coffee too much. When I'm fasting, since I can't smoke, I try to sleep all day until the fast-breaking hour."

He isn't alone. Many smokers have enormous difficulties during Ramadan. Most of them abstain from smoking to follow religious obligations because they aren't in Mustapha's situation. Less addicted to nicotine, they don't feel the negative effects of fasting as strongly.

Omar*, for instance, has been a smoker for eight years. "To me it's like any other day, as though it wasn't Ramadan. I don't feel any withdrawal symptoms because after a while, you get used to it."

Some smokers storm drugstores and tobacconists after the fast to catch up on their smoking. Mustapha isn't one of them. "No, I'm not in that kind of logic. I don't smoke a lot at night. You know, I don't think it's mathematics. You can't smoke the same number of cigarettes you usually do after breaking fast. It isn't like sleep that you can catch up on."

For Omar, it is a question of taste. "Personally, it's not about catching up. I smoke if I feel the need to, that's all," he says.

Despite their addiction to nicotine, the two smokers would like to quit for good. It is a hard but not impossible challenge. "Cigarettes are obviously toxic and costly," says Mustapha.

Omar agrees. "Breaking the habit is a question of willpower. If you want to, you can. Cigarettes take too high a toll on the body and the wallet."

The holy month of Ramadan can be a positive gateway for smokers who want to break the habit. But does it work? "Maybe for some, but I think quitting depends on the smoker's will. Humans are naturally resistant to change. When the change is forced, like quitting cigarettes because of a religious obligation, I don't think the human brain favorably processes this request. And during Ramadan, stimulants like caffeine or coffee are more attractive. In fact, hookah (waterpipes) cafes are more full during Ramadan than the rest of the year," says Mustapha.

*Real names were modified for this article.

3 Questions for: Mohamed Ali Anwar, lung specialist

Does addiction to nicotine decrease during Ramadan?
The addiction to nicotine during Ramadan doesn't change. Except that as Muslim, the smoker is even more constrained by a religious obligation.

So is it a good time to stop smoking?
It's an ideal time to start withdrawing. In fact I often tell my patients they should choose events like the birth of their children or Ramadan to stop smoking.

What are the consequences of nicotine?
Nicotine is part of the 4,000 ingredients present in a cigarette. It makes the smoker addicted. There are several therapeutic methods, but willpower is the best remedy.

Read the original article from in French.

Photo - USAFE public affairs

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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