Ramadan starts on Saturday. There are between 5 and 7 million muslims in France, 200,000 of whom live in Marseille. The local paper, La Provence, writes that it’s estimated that until the third week of September around three quarters of muslims will try to abide by the custom and obligation of not eating, drinking or having sex between dawn and nightfall.
In temperatures of more than 30 degrees at present the restriction on drinking will be tough and clearly risky for health.
A regional representative of islam from the Marseille mosque Ennasr (‘victory’ in English) explains the idea is to become ‘morally stronger’ and another muslim commentator adds that during ramadan ‘fatigue prevents us from hyperactivity that can allow us to escape ourselves.’
Participants are expected to be on their best behaviour all month and then try to continue on the same lines for the eleven months to follow.
The region’s mosques will be busy. Last year 3000 packed into the single prayer rooom at Ennasr for the final day of abstinence (Aid el Fitr). The figure has risen steadily in recent years, boosted by the presence of many youngsters. 63% of French muslims are aged between 15 and 34 and use the internet to engage with islamic sites and muslim networks.
The financial crisis is unlikely to play much part in ramadan. Despite the much talked of crise du pouvoir d'achat – crisis in purchasing power – many muslim families spend a little more than usual. Though two meals fewer are eaten each day, the evening meal which breaks the fast tends to be richer amd more elaborate than usual.
And complementing the idea of spiritual strengthening or cleansing, one woman from Martigues explains ramadan is also a time for ‘cleaning the house from top to bottom. And eating on all-new crockery.’