The Holy Month of Ramadan is upon us. Most people know the month-long fast is a time Muslims are expected to demonstrate self-control, humility and submission to the will to Allah. What you might not know is that throughout Ramadan emergency services are overwhelmed by a spike in crime–a phenomenon known as “Ramadan rage,” which affects not just Muslim countries, but cities with high concentrations of believers, from Dearborn to Deptford.
The effects of this gruelling annual fast have been widely studied. Researchers say those taking part risk migraines, dehydration, dizziness, tachycardia, nausea, circulatory collapse… and even gout, owing to a build-up of uric acid. Indigestion caused by binge eating is also a concern–as is weight gain: Muslims often pile on the pounds during the summer months.
But aside from these medical risks, and more pertinent to the emergency services and law and order, is the primary side effect of not eating, drinking or smoking in the daytime: irritability that can spill over into violence.
Short-temperedness doesn’t just affect abstainers during the first few days of self-denial; rather, irritability increases continuously throughout the month, leading to shorter and shorter fuses as Eid al-Fitr, the blow-out party to mark the end of the fast, approaches. It is perhaps no surprise then that antisocial behaviour and domestic abuse surge throughout the Muslim world in the Holy Month.
One of the most expansive studies of this annual crime wave in Algeria revealed petty crime increased by a staggering 220 percent during Ramadan. Fights, disputes and assaults rose by 320 percent and instances of women and children being beaten at home increased by 120 percent. In addition, there was a 410 percent increase in accidents of various kinds and an 80 percent increase in deaths.
The findings of the Algerian study are widely corroborated. From Egypt to Indonesia, recorded violent crime increases by incredible percentages throughout the fast. In addition, Ramadan exacerbates other social problems and spawns specific crimes all its own: offenses not generally seen at other times of the year. Child traffickers in Yemen, for example, take advantage of the increase in food prices to purchase children from poor parents.
Non-Muslims are targeted for not observing the fast; church burnings are a given during Ramadan. But it’s not just religious minorities in Muslim countries who are attacked: it happens here, too. In 2010, a man was brutally beaten in Tower Hamlets by a gang of young Muslim men for not observing Ramadan. He was battered unconscious and left with serious injuries. No one was charged over the incident, leading to accusations that the police suppressed evidence because they feared being accused of “racism” or “islamophobia.”
In Muslim countries, governments prepare for Ramadan by boosting police patrols and carrying out public awareness campaigns about crime and the increase in accidents that is also a regular fixture of the fast. Of course, the emergency services in the U.K., hamstrung by political correctness, are more reticent to publicly acknowledge the challenges posed by Ramadan.
That’s not to say there aren’t figures available, if you dig for them: a study by the Accident and Emergency Department of St Mary’s Hospital, London in 1994 revealed a significant rise in the number of Muslims attending accident and emergency in Ramadan. This increase in road traffic accidents and other sorts of unfortunate incidents is hardly surprising, given that sustained fasting dramatically affects cognitive function.
The rigours of fasting are particularly difficult for British Muslims, who have to endure longer periods without food and water than those closer to the equator. It’s even worse for Muslims in Scandinavia: there are parts of northern Norway where the sun never sets in summer.
The NHS, of course, makes no mention of all this in their official Ramadan guidance, though it does warn that people on peritoneal dialysis shouldn’t fast but “should perform fidyah,” a religious donation to the poor, instead. The guidance says that while withholding food and water for 19 hours to children under the age of seven or eight isn’t “advisable,” it can be “tolerated differently, depending on the attitude of the parents.”
British police, too, are notorious for their “soft-touch” approach to policing Ramadan. The Greater Manchester Police in England have been widely criticised over the last decade for giving lip service to the problem of drunk and drugged-up Muslim gangs, who have for years descended on the Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Rusholme each year, racing their cars up and down the High Street.
Every year, the police force requests that “anyone wishing to bring or cause problems” should stay away; every year, ugly scenes return to the city. In 2012, a Muslim man taking part in the celebrations used his car as a weapon in an attempted murder.
The Manchester force’s reluctance to take a firm stance on Eid celebrations shouldn’t surprise us: they once even ordered officers not to arrest Muslims at prayer times during Ramadan, a concession not awarded to any other religion and one that was later rescinded after sustained public outrage about how blatantly the force was awarding special treatment to one faith.
Only in Bradford, England have the police admitted that the Holy Month produces an increase in crime. They have been advised by local community leaders that the increase is probably down to youths “taking advantage of the fact their parents could be occupied with observing Ramadan.”
But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because it’s grown-ups too. Last week, Asian Image, a newspaper that bills itself as “the voice of the British Asian” painted a vivid word picture of verbally abusive parents, road rage, angry smokers, zombified fasters and domestic abuse around last year’s holy festivities.
Emergency and health services don’t shy away from cracking down on bad behaviour at other times of year. Anti-drink driving messages saturate our screens at Christmas and this year Home Secretary Theresa May and the NHS warned men not to lose their temper after World Cup matches, citing rises in domestic violence around major sporting events.
But will the general public ever be adequately warned about chaotic scenes on the streets of Southall, Bradford, Leicester and Birmingham during the supposedly peaceful month of Ramadan? Don’t hold your breath.