Analysis
3 months ago

Money to be spent on iftar party can serve a humanitarian cause

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Over the years iftar parties became an integral part of Ramadan. Political parties, business organisations, corporate offices, clubs and the who's who used to arrange such parties throughout the month. There were high-profile, low-profile and mid-profile iftar parties. Of course, the iftar party hosted at the Bangabhaban and Ganobhaban were at the summit in terms of the guests who attended those parties. After all, the hosts of those parties were none other than the head of the state and the head of the government. Naturally, apart from the ministers, members of parliament and heavyweight political leaders of the opposition and other parties, a select few outstanding civilians, diplomats get the invitation to attend such apex iftar parties.

Then come the iftar party arranged by the leader of the opposition and the dominant political parties. Such iftar arrangements also used to assume special importance particularly in the years preceding national elections. There was an unspoken competition between political parties about the opulence of such gatherings.

This year is an exception to such gala parties to mark breaking fast. Thanks to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, she had issued a directive not to hold any big iftar party at official costs. Even she made a request to individuals and private organisations willing to throw such parties in the month of siam (not just fasting but abstinence) to distribute food among the destitute instead of spending money on such arrangements. In fact, ever since the Covid-19 forced abandonment of public gatherings, iftar party started to take a back seat.

This year, Ramadan is being observed in the context of a hard reality. Economy is not in a good health and the lower segments of population are struggling to survive. Traditionally, the month-long observance of siam, contrary to the spirit of self-denial or the practice of asceticism, gives rise to consumption both in terms of quantity and quality. A distorted mindset is at work at all levels in that people try to prepare costly dishes at this time they usually are not habituated to. Let alone those who can afford the best and the most pricey items in the market, even most of the low-income people stretch their affordability to enrich their menu of iftar and two meals at night. If abstinence got the better of consumption, even traders could not take the consumers for a ride.

This is, however, mostly an urban fever of mindset. In villages, most people are not influenced by this fever of consumerism. They break their fast as simply as they can. However, in recent times their pattern of iftar and meal preparation has undergone some changes under the influence of urban culinary system.

Throwing iftar parties is primarily a high-society affair. At the level of common people, invitation to relatives and neighbours and exchange of iftar dishes have developed as a social custom. This is a sober affair. There is no attempt at exhibitionism but a kind of social obligation and even a kind of satisfaction of sharing with the loved ones. No, these are not the so-called iftar parties but through such sharing, they cement their social bond. Then there are others who prepare iftar items in excess of what they require but not to waste. They do so in order to distribute those among the poor who cannot manage such items.

Had this spirit been extended by people who arrange iftar parties, the sanctity of siam would not be so vitiated. The prime minister might have felt the absurdity of wasting money on iftar parties which in fact go against the letter and spirit of siam. This is exactly why she suggested distribution of the money individuals and private organisations would have spent on such parties. At a time of financial hardship, such charity works make a far greater sense. When a large number of people cannot manage the bare minimum items to break their fast, isn't it an affront to hold lavish and sumptuous iftar parties?

The redirection of money spent on such vain and anti-religious festive arrangements in time of abstinence can go a long way in terms of humanitarian service. Well spent for a worthy cause, this, moreover, synchronises with religious spirit and obligations. This practice of giving away in addition to what is religiously binding for a Muslim such as fitra and Zakat can be taken ahead as a social movement. Instead of spending money on show-biz-like iftar parties, the channelling of such funds to serve such a purpose can bring smile to many faces.

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