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I am dealing (as a Christian in Western Europe in a Syrian refugee situation) with a (perfectly nice) about-10-year old girl, who for now speaks almost only Arabic (which I don't). She is not having lunch and I'm by now pretty sure it is because of Ramadan. (She's also quite tired each day.)

Before I thought about Ramadan as an explanation, I tried to suggest to her repeatedly to eat or drink at lunchtime. Once she took some bare bread and once some pineapple compote, but otherwise she just smiles a bit shyly and shakes her head. I now no longer do that because I think it would be disrespectful to her culture and may cause harm in her family. I never see her parents, just two older sisters who are also at the very early stages of learning the local language (and perhaps also English for that matter). Lunchtime must be pretty tough on the girl, because lots of local kids are eating next to her.

Here is my question (which I will put also to local adult Muslims when I get the chance): What, if anything, can one reasonably infer about the religious background and mindset of a family who teaches a young girl to observe Ramadan? (My understanding is the Quran says it's optional for the sick and for kids.) For instance: Is this considered a "normal" or "rather extreme" practice? Is this common in a certain area or sub-community?

P.S. It just came to mind that the same behavior was already present also last week, so perhaps Ramadan (which apparently began on June 6) and religion is not the (entire) reason after all.

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    It's hard to give you an answer. First of all I'd like to correct your view: Quran is not speaking about kids rather than old and sick people legacy.quran.com/2/184. But the laws of shariah (for example fasting) applies only for the defined adult that means once she had her first menses she would reach this age. Of course depending on the cultural background Muslims more or less encourage their children to fast and maybe discourage them to eat in front of fasting adults. Note that when Children first experience fasting they rarely fast (or are allowed to fast) a whole day. – Medi1Saif Jun 9 '16 at 6:06
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    Are there any other kids with the same situation doing the same thing as the girl do? As you said, perhaps Ramadan and Islam is not the actual reason for her behavior. I believe a more thorough observation might answer your question. – Amir Syafrudin Jun 9 '16 at 6:27
  • @Medi1Saif Thx for correction re Quran: acknowledged. – Drux Jun 9 '16 at 19:59
  • @AmirSyafrudin Will proceed also with more thorough observation, of course. There are three Muslim kids (in a group of approx. 20 overall). One with a Turkish, one perhaps with a Serbian, and one with a Syrian background. Neither of the first two speaks Arabic, so they can't know for sure about the third's motives either. The first one is one of my sources at this point and she was also quoting their common teacher in Islam, whom I hope to see and consult when I get a chance to. – Drux Jun 9 '16 at 20:07
  • I'd be glad if you shared with us the result of your consultation. – Medi1Saif Jun 10 '16 at 6:15
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The mental image "Muslims enforce their kids to do so" that is common among westerners is far from real.

All religious obligations in Islam, not only fasting in Ramadan, but also prayer, haj (pilgrimage), Hijab, etc. are all for adulthood.

But what do your kids in western Europe do? They imitate the everyday actions of the adults. And that's what the Muslim kids do!

Your daughter sees you (if you are a mom) putting on makeup everyday, so she plays with your makeup and perfumes. A Muslim girl sees her mother putting on her Hijab everyday, so she likes to wear the Hijab like her.

A Muslim kid sees his whole family fast during Ramadan, so he comes to his mom/dad and says: "I'm no longer a child [though he is] so I want to fast during Ramadan like all of you!" So his parents encourage him as long as the kid is not harmed: the younger kids may fast till noon only, and then are instructed to eat.

And so on for every other Islamic obligation.

This what really happens inside the majority of Islamic communities.

  • +1 for "shariah is for adult". I confirm that, in my country kids usually just "practice", not real saum (fasting), they eat at midday if they are not strong enough. However, some of them are usually shame if their friends can stand on it but they cannot. It depends on how old are they. – fikr4n Jun 9 '16 at 6:30
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    +1 Argument makes good sense to me (the OP, who tries to stay clear of typical prejudices as best he can). – Drux Jun 9 '16 at 19:58
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How receptive of you to even notice the presence of Ramadan, and her efforts which most likely reflect it. One way you can figure out what is going on with her is to make sure she has things to draw and color with. Her journey to you was full of challenges, and it's very likely she can be very worried about her family and being well behaved even in their absence. Most muslim children desire to fast to be pleasing to God-and are allowed to do so for a part of the day. As they get older, they are allowed to fast for a longer portion of the day. Another thing you can do for her is to take her to the local masjid for Iftar sometimes. I'm sure that would help you and her. I'm sure you can also get someone there to communicate with her, and make life a bit easier for her.

  • I understand she has arr. about two months ago and she is now incr. finding friends and opening up with more frequent smiles, etc. She also likes to draw, partly in guided exerc. and partly following her own intuition. I was quite moved when I once recogn. one of her chosen motives: a human eye as wide as a sheet of paper with three big blue tears underneath. One of the last things I want to do at this point is to drive a possible wedge between her and her family (at what must still be a challenging time) by making a fuss about religious practices, local or otherwise. Thx for your suggestions. – Drux Jun 17 '16 at 16:52

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