Italy: Farm workers must drink during Ramadan

Italy: Farm workers must drink during Ramadan

Muslim farmhands in the northern province of Mantua could be forced to drink water during Ramadan in order to keep their job under a decision by the local Farming Safety Committee.

The committee, made up of representatives from Italy's two largest agricultural associations and three biggest trade unions, has issued an order making it obligatory for farm labourers to drink water while working The order, which comes in the middle of a heatwave, will extend throughout the summer into the fast of Ramadan, which this year starts on August 20.

During the month-long fast of Ramadan, Muslims are strictly prohibited from eating or drinking anything, including water, between dawn and dusk.

Muslim farmhands in Mantua who refuse to drink water ''will be temporarily suspended from work and if they repeat the infraction, they will be fired,'' the committee said. Committee President Roberto Cagliari, who also leads the Mantua chapter of agricultural organisation Coldiretti, said the decision had been taken in order to protect workers in the province's tomato and melon fields. ''We made the order because we want to safeguard the health of our workers as much as possible,'' he said. ''The refusal to drink water on the part of various farmhands in melon fields during Ramadan last year created considerable problems''.

But a representative of the Mantuan Islamic community, Ben Mansour, said the order was illegal and unnecessary. ''There is no work contract and no legal provision requiring us to drink during Ramadan and if any Muslim worker is fired for this, then we will contest it,'' he said. ''If a Muslim farmhand feels unwell, he can take a break and if he then realises that the feeling is not a passing one, he may take a drink.

''But that is his own decision and no one else should be able to force that on him''. The month-long fast, from which only the sick, pregnant, elderly or children are exempt, is a cornerstone of Islam and is followed by most Muslims worldwide, even the less devout. Anyone falling genuinely ill during Ramadan is allowed to break the fast. Working hours in many Islamic countries are often adapted to take Ramadan into account when it falls during the longer, hotter days of summer.

Source: ANSA (English)

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