10/11/2004, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Non Muslim foreigners must observe Ramadan

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Foreigners will have to observe all the rules and regulations of the holy month of Ramada. This means that they will not be allowed to eat, drink or smoke in public places during daylight hours. Saudi authorities warned foreigners that violations to the law will not be tolerated.

The holy month Ramadan –ninth month in the Muslim calendar– will begin on October 15 when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted and will last four weeks. In this period Muslims must fast and abstain from sex from dawn to dusk.

In a press release by the Saudi state news agency, the Interior Minister is quoted as saying that "resident non-Muslims must respect the feelings of Muslims and not eat, drink or smoke in shops, streets or offices." The minister adds that "being a non-Muslim is not an excuse. Violators will be dismissed from their work and deported." The press release also stated that employers must inform their non Muslim employees and that state-run television and radio will repeatedly broadcast the information in Arabic, English and French.

According to Muslim tradition God revealed Islam's Holy Book, the Qu'ran, to the prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago.

Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute monarchy based on the principles of one the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islam: Wahhabism. Its government is founded on Islamic or Shari'ah law.

Out of a population of 21.6 million about 8 million are foreigners. Muslims make up 93.7 per cent of the total whilst Christians represent 3.7 per cent. Catholics are about 900,000. (DS)

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