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Friday, September 3, 2010

Ramadan Fasts 'Normal' for Langkawi Muslims

Sitifara Ilyani, 5: In training for Ramadan fasts 
  Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter

A young Muslim Malay woman fasted all day the first two days of Ramadan, but when she accompanied two foreign infidels to lunch at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, she decided to give up her fast.

When Norsafura was about to choose from a menu that included burgers as well as curries, the smile faded from the waitress’s face. “We do not serve Muslims (during the day),“ the waitress said firmly. “Even the management said so. It is Ramadan.“

Norsafura, who calls herself Aura ( photo, below ), did not order lunch. Later while Muslim eyes were not watching, she picked up her favorite meal of doughnuts from Big Apple Donuts & Coffee at the Langkawi ferry station.

Elsewhere in Langkawi, however, Muslims apparently kept on fasting. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan, which is based on the Muslim calendar. It is a time for Muslims to learn about patience, humility, and spirituality, according to Wikepedia.

During Ramadan in Langkawi, it seemed like it was business as usual. At Maybank in downtown Kuah, colors burst from the row of women working as tellers in ankle-length skirts with theirs arms, necks, and hair covered. They were dressed modestly, Muslim style, but with a Malaysian flair of colors, including brilliant pink and lime green.
I asked one of the ladies how she can fast and work at the same time. With a smile that lit up a face framed inside a bright yellow scarf, she said, “It is normal.“

At the posh Bon Ton Restaurant located in front of a rice paddy, I asked a waitress how she can fast while serving platters of coconut lamb curry and barbecued shrimp. She said, “It is normal.“

Amanda, owner of Amanda‘s Cafe, explained how she grew up with partial fasts since she was very small. By the time she was 12, a full day’s fast felt “normal.”
The ability to fast is “a mindset,” declared Jaffri Kahn, who was fasting while working at his father’s store, SK Intertrade, a print shop that also caters to “yachties” with items such as used books in English and flags from different countries.

On an island that is close to 90% Muslim Malay, it is also normal for followers of the faith to wait with their plates full, just before sunset.

At the Flamingo Café in the Bayview Hotel, couples and families were waiting for the iftar, the fast-breaking meal. They sat in front of plates brimming with dishes from the special Ramadan buffet, chicken curry seasoned with anise, beef soup prepared with cloves and cinnamon sticks, fish topped with hot pepper soy sauce; tom yam soup with lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, banana pancakes, shrimp, roast lamb with fresh mint sauce.
Finally the moment arrived. The muezzin’s mournful drone filled the restaurant, “Allah u’aqbar…” Some of the fasters raised their arms to the sky. The same melodic prayer in Arabic was being broadcast to fasters throughout the mountains and rainforests of Langkawi.
 Copyright, 2010, Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter

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