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 servicemembers 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.”
We reached out to a Marine currently deployed in Iraq to gain perspective on this policy. The Marine who wished to remain anonymous stated, “We eat and drink normally during our training, we just do it away from the Iraqis. The only thing we have discussed here is being polite and not eating, drinking, or smoking in front of Muslims. We even refrain from doing it in front of the Iraqis who aren’t adhering to fasting; they really can’t because they are training and it’s over 100 degrees every day.”
Suffice it to say, it is business as usual overseas and the US troops are not facing eating, drinking restrictions during Ramadan.