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“Fasting, feasting and spiritual contemplation define Ramadan for Muslims, but some not-so-religious residents say it’s a time of traffic jams, late-night noise pollution and judgmental stares for them,” reports Özgur Ögret in Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News.

The social pressure goes both ways, fasters and non-fasters say, calling for tolerance and respect for pious and secular practices alike, Ögret writes in the Turkish newspaper’s English edition.

The faithful’s race home to break their fasts with the iftar meal makes Istanbul’s already infamous traffic busier.

The holy month of Ramadan is among the most joyous events of the year for Muslims, but for members of Turkey’s non-fasting minority, it can be a time of intolerance and annoyance instead.

“Do not even get me started about the ezan and the Ramadan drums,” said Yusuf, a young writer living in Istanbul, referring to the five-times-daily call to prayer and the peripatetic percussionists who bang out pre-dawn wake-up calls to fasters during Ramadan.

Like most other people who said they find Ramadan an unpleasant experience, Yusuf did not want to give his last name. More than by the sleep disruptions, he said is he upset at the social pressure and disapproval he experiences during the holy month – the cashier who gives a customer buying beer the cold shoulder or the bus driver who starts an argument about the coffee in a passenger’s hand.

Ozan, a ceramics artist living in İzmir, said he is not disturbed by Ramadan practices in the Aegean city, though that was not the case when he spent time in the eastern province of Ağrı a few years back. “All the places to eat were closed. You could not smoke outside,” he said. “Once, I was about to light up and this guy hanging around his store interrupted, telling me, ‘Brother, if you light up, [people] will beat you.’”

Zeynep, an event organizer in Istanbul, shared her mother’s response to Ramadan-related hassles: “I carry on with my own life in its normal flow; I am not interested in other people’s lives.” For her part, Zeynep said the only thing she finds bothersome about Ramadan is the rush-hour traffic as people race home to break their fasts with the evening meal known as iftar after abstaining from food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

Busy traffic is also the main Ramadan complaint of Salur, an engineer from Ankara. “When the idea of fasting is planted, it should be thought simultaneously that mastering your temper and communicating joyfully is as indivisible a part of the fasting activity as mastering your hunger,” he said.

Journalist Erdem from Istanbul expressed similar sentiments, saying, “I am sure tolerance is not a stance Muslims practice only toward each other.”

The pre-dawn drumming is a source of irritation for many non-fasters, including Onur, a French instructor in İzmir who said he has been disturbed by the drummers “all his life.” Though he is pro-secular, Onur said the drums would bother him “even if I was someone who fasts 30 days in a row.”

He said the traditional wake-up call is unnecessary in this day and age and as problematic as the “mosques that turn up the speaker volume to the limit and play a pre-recorded ezan.”

Calling the drumming a pretentious act to appear religious, he said the drummers are just doing it for money and added that he thought they should be banned.

The social pressure Ozan and Yusuf described is another hot-button issue, especially for women. Communications specialist Pınar said she recently visited her mother at her family’s summerhouse in Southeast Turkey, where the conservative neighbors complained to her mother about Pınar returning home from the beach wrapped in a towel, saying their neighborhood is not a “nudist colony.”

Pınar said her mother also told her not to walk around in a bikini because people were fasting.

“I did not make changes to my clothes because of this and I did not get angry at the ‘morality police’ either,” Pınar said. “They will learn not to get angry at me, too. They will, at worst, get used to me.”

Pınar’s discomfort is shared by Ayşe, an advertiser in Istanbul who said she “feels the peer pressure when [she] wears low-necked tops during Ramadan, [though] not an intolerable amount.”

Another woman, singer Sanem, said she is disturbed by people staring at her because she is not fasting, and may even be smoking or drinking. “We can be much happier if everybody would grant [everyone else] the right to be,” she said.

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