A senior interior ministry official said on Sunday that there is no law in Egypt’s penal code that criminalises those who publicly eat or drink during Ramadan fasting hours.
The issue has been heavily discussed in the Egyptian media over the past few days after a report that 25 people were arrested in the upscale Fifth Settlement district just outside Cairo for eating and drinking in public.
Prosecution sources said they were arrested because “they didn’t take into account the feelings of other [fasters] and didn’t respect the holy month of Ramadan.”
Able-bodied, observant Muslims refrain from eating, drinking or smoking during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan, which started on 18 June this year.
Those arrested were released on Saturday.
The interior minister’s deputy for public relations and media, Abu-Bakr Abdel-Kareem, told private satellite channel ONTV that the Quran permits Muslims to not fast during Ramadan for a number of reasons.
“We can’t put in place a law that contradicts the Quran,” he said.
Abdel-Kreem seemed unaware of the reported arrests, saying that he would check the details, and that the group might have been arrested for another reason.
However, Abdel-Kareem added that if they were in fact arrested for eating and drinking in public then there would be “an investigation into the matter.”
Public eating and drinking in the daylight hours of Ramdan is a recurrent subject of media debate, and each year brings reports that in some areas, police have shut down cafes that operate during fasting hours.