Religion does not have to kill

Fact: If you are working unprotected in the hot sun, the major way that you can cool down is to sweat.

Fact: If you sweat in the desert, with very dry air, and the sweat evaporates from you body,

Fact: If the sweat simply runs off of you, as in a very humid environment, it has that much less cooling effect.

Fact: An unprotected person working in the hot sun can lose enough water in 2-3 hours to lower blood pressure enough that he or she can no longer sweat. At this time there is no further spontaneous means of shedding heat, and the person is subject to heat stroke or death.

Now, consider Ramzan (Ramadan) in Karachi in June-July 2015:

“There is the Respect of Ramzan Ordinance, which says you may be sent to prison for a few months if you eat or drink during fasting hours, or if you give someone something to eat or drink.”

“Many of the 1,000 people who have died in the recent heat wave in Karachi died because of this sensibility: Some people were reluctant to ask for a drink of water, others were reluctant to offer it to them. You can’t blame them. Even if they could get past their inhibitions, there was no water to be had. All the little tea stalls, roadside restaurants, small juice or snack vendors disappear from the streets during fasting hours. In this month you can walk miles without finding a sip of water. And Karachi has developed in a way that you can also walk miles without finding any shade to cool down.”

“The victims, mostly poor and working class, needed some shade, a drink of water and a bit of time to slow down. But shade and a respite from work are hard to come by in Karachi — even in the month of Ramzan, the work of being a megacity must go on.”

“Since an overwhelming majority of those who died were poor, nobody is calling for an investigation or rethinking how the city is growing. The victims were just dehydrated and not sensible enough to protect themselves against the harsh weather. They don’t count as martyrs, according to religious authorities, even though they died during the holy month, many of them while fasting. The media express indignation, but over power breakdowns:…”

“What killed them was the forced piety enshrined in our law and Karachi’s contempt for the working poor. These people died because we long ago removed any shade that could shelter them from the June sun and then took away their drinking water.”

I have talked to many Islamic religious authorities, and all have assured me that one must not endanger one’s health by fasting. Enough said.

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