U.S. Troops face eating, drinking restrictions during Ramadan

Staff Sgt. Donald White, patrol leader for Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, talks with an Iraqi father whose daughter was killed by an insurgent mortar attack the previous day. Photographer: Pfc. Paul J. Harris.

During the 30-day religious celebration of Ramadan, those in Muslim countries, even those not practicing the religion, are expected to obey laws restricting eating, drinking, and using tobacco in public. As a testament to their faith, Muslims do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset.

According to The Weekly Standard, one of the top commanders in the military reminded soldiers stationed in Muslim countries of the Ramadan restrictions that they are expected to follow, out of duty and respect. Brig. Gen. John Quintas, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing commander in Southwest Asia, told reporters that “The United States is committed to the concepts of tolerance, freedom and diversity. Soldiers should become more informed and appreciative of the traditions and history of the people in this region of the world…Remember we are guests here and that the host nation is our shoulder-to-shoulder, brothers and sisters in arms, risking their lives for our common cause to defeat terrorism.”

When asked if these were new guidelines, or restrictions continuing from past policy, a spokesperson for United States Central Command (CENTCOM) stated, “There has been no change in policy…While the U.S. does not have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the UAE, it is common practice to ensure all Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, and Marines deployed to Muslim countries are culturally aware that during the month of Ramadan, practicing Muslims do not consume anything from sunrise to sunset as a pillar of their faith. Commanders throughout the AOR create policies to ensure their subordinates respect the laws and culture of our hosts at all times.”

Violators of Ramadan rules can face fines up to $685 or 2 months in jail. The spokesperson from CENTCOM said, “We are not aware of any specific instances of anyone being arrested for these violations.”

For military personnel serving outside of U.S.-controlled areas, there are exceptions to the rules for soldiers “performing strenuous labor.” These individuals are allowed to consume as much food and drink as needed to keep hydrated and have plenty of energy. However, there are no specific guidelines as to what constitutes “strenuous labor.”

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