Social and economic stress combined with fasting makes for a dangerous mix
In the past few years, Ramadan – a month usually reserved for pious contemplation and reverence – has been marred by an alarming rise in violent crime, experts have said.
During this Ramadan season, the press reported, the Ministry of the Interior reported at least 10 violent crimes.
In one such crime, a 20-year-old man killed his best friend and his grandmother, hoping to steal her jewelry. In another crime, a man killed his brother over ownership of an apartment during an inheritance dispute.
And of course there is also the recurring “honor crime of a husband who kills his wife in a fit of jealous rage.
“Throughout my 30-year career, Egypt has witnessed accidents and arguments – nothing beyond the scope of a couple fighting over some issue during the Ramadan season, but in the last few years Ramadan now is akin to the other months of the year – plagued with crime, Mahmoud Salah, editor in chief of Akhbar El-Hawades newspaper, commented.
According to Gamal El-Bana, an Islamist writer, aside from a general rise in Egypt s crime rate, there are two main factors behind Ramadan violence, traditions and revenge killing. But the deterioration in the social, political and economic state of affairs has created new types of crimes in which people can kill each other over a mere ten pounds, he said.
“Although Ramadan is a holy month where Muslims seek to be closer to God, fasting can put some people in a melancholy mood. Add to this the physiological state of fasting and the stressful conditions of Egyptian life, and consequently crimes take place in Ramadan, he told The Daily Star Egypt.
El-Bana also criticized “fake and superficial piety whereby most are obsessed with dress codes rather than conduct. He also warned of fatwas that could be misinterpreted to allow violent crime.
Sheikh El-Karadawy issued a fatwa indicating that it is religiously right for a husband to kill his wife if he found her in bed with another person, El-Bana said. He then explained that no such edict exists in the Quran or Islamic law.
Madiaha El-Safty, a professor of psychology at the American University in Cairo, believes economic and social factors are contributing to the increase in the violent crime rate and that during Ramadan a lack of food and cigarettes can add to the stress for some people.
I know that we have a common trend in Egypt of accusing any person who commits a big crime of being insane or mentally sick, but this is not true, said El-Safty. According to El-Safty some of the perpetrators are normal people but under severe pressure that drives them to act in abnormal ways.