Sunday, September 7, 2008

Empathy For The Poor

We have three weeks of Ramadan left. I was speaking with one of our Muslim cohorts last night about the reason for the tradition of fasting during the holy season. He explained that it is to help people empathize with the plight of the poor; to understand what it was like to have little and to eat only once a day if that.

On the surface this whole concept of empathy for the impoverished is laudable, and truly more people in the world need to embrace it. I wondered what do the poor people, for whom everyone else is empathizing with, do during Ramadan? Do they also restrict their diets, or do they get to gorge themselves on a high fat and cholesterol diet to empathize with the plight of the rich, and if so where is the line drawn between poor and rich?

In the evenings the fasting practitioners, those that are seeking to feel the experience of the poor, feast on vast amounts of food and drink. I'm not sure how this is in keeping with the spirit of empathy. In my rather dim view, I would suggest that they take the food and give it to the very people that are suffering. Then we have true empathy. Without that, fasting appears to be more of an inconvenience than anything else.

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