A rite for a right: The US Department of Justice’s solution to Guantanamo hunger strikers during Ramadan
- 07/07/2013 by Barbara Nimri Aziz (Radio Tahrir)
A Ramadan gift to eclipse all others:— in these multicultural-sensitive
times, the American Department of Justice has surely set a new standard.
Either some creative criminologist or an imaginative Muslim chaplain
seeking to justify his post, or an hurriedly composed Ramadan guidebook,
has prevailed on Guantanamo prison authorities just in time for the Muslim
What has our justice department done in response to a petition
to end force-feeding of striking prisoners? It will feed the men by nasal
tubes only after sunset and before dawn!
This, we are told, is to make the justice department compliant with
No human rights; instead, a rite. Surely this is a contemptuous reply by
the DOJ to legal appeals representing hunger-striking inmates in its
infamous island prison.
So when fasting in coming weeks, should I and a billion other Muslims feel
we are in synch with our desperate brothers at Guantanamo gasping as
feeding tubes are forced through their nasal passages and into their
stomachs? The striking men’s religious precepts will be respected while
the prisoners’ demand that they not be fed at all are firmly denied.
This decision adds to the many injustices Guantanamo detainees have had to
endure for more than a decade. Who could have thought up this resolution?
But there is a cheerless irony in the action. Even though the DOJ may
consider itself religion-compliant in this decision, apparently no one
suggested to them that obligatory fasting rules might be lifted under the
circumstances of these prisoners’ conditions. As bizarre as the practice
is, force-feeding could be interpreted as a ‘medical procedure’ and would
thereby exempt these Muslims from fasting. Or, since fasting regulations
specify that nothing should pass one’s lips during the month, then
force-feeding through the nasal passage may not, strictly speaking, be
interpreted as imbibing food or drink. This argument too would allow
authorities to bypass fasting parameters.
Surely this complex problem calls for a ‘fatwa’. Could this be the first
time in Islamic experience that force-feeding has confronted our community
of scholars, men who eagerly pronounce on the most humdrum and fatuous
habits of Muslims’ domestic life? And we will need a revised Ramadan Kit
produced by CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), the US
Muslim rights organization that prides itself in its close co-operation
with US justice authorities.
While some Muslim rights organizations called for the end of the
force-feeding procedure, all are silent on the absurdity of the DOJ
Ramadan decision for Guantanamo’s protesters.
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