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May 05, 2019

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Could I be punished for eating in public during Ramadan?

Several cases of Non-Muslims consuming food and drink in public during the holy month have been brought to the court.

In many of these cases, the defendants claim that they are exempt from the law because they are Non-Muslims. Judges then tell them about the policy but the defendants simply say that they did not know the law.

"Ignoring local laws does not protect one from legal action," legal consultant Dr. Hassan Elhais from Al Rowad Advocates stressed.

Dr. Elhais said that the UAE penal code does not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims. The same rules apply for everybody.

According to the UAE's penal code, the law pertaining to consuming food or drink during Ramadan does not say that it is only for Muslims. Article 313 of the penal code says: "A person who eats or drinks in public during Ramadan, or encourages the act of consuming in public can face up to one month in prison or up to Dh2,000 fine." The same article also states that any shop that encourages the act of eating/drinking in public during the time of fast may be closed down for a month. Article 314 meanwhile gives the Minister of Interior the authority to shut down these shops.

Dr. Elhais also said that UAE residents should read and understand the laws of the country. Residents should also stop relying on hearsay or assumptions; so they can avoid making mistakes that will merit legal action.

"People should understand that eating or drinking in public during Ramadan while it it still day is not allowed," he added.

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