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Bag lunches for Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan began earlier this week for devout Muslims worldwide. In Finland, the religious observance involving daytime fasting has caused a controversy over meal times at a major refugee accommodation centre. Bag lunches may be the answer to the clash between religion and routine.

Suomen muslimeja syömässä yhteisellä aterialla.
Muslims in Finland break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan in 2012 at the Munkkiniemi Masjid. Image: Yle

During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims abstain from eating during the daytime and only break their fast at night. The exceptional nighttime meal ritual has in the past disrupted meal schedules at the Metsälä refugee reception centre in Helsinki.

Residents and officials at the Metsälä reception centre have agreed to resort to packed lunches to solve the dilemma.

“This idea of a bag lunch was suggested as a compromise by one Muslim association. Usually we can only serve fruit in the dormitories,” said Pekka Nuutinen, director of the Metsälä reception centre.

Finnish Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen said that Muslims observing the Ramadan fast should also have access to proper meals.

Räsänen said that evening meals should be provided, but safely and economically. Currently immigration officials have no clear guidelines for operating in what are still unusual circumstances in Finland.

Veikko Pyykkönen, chief inspector with the Finnish Immigration Service, Migri, said that authorities will cooperate with the reception centres, and other experts during this Ramadan to see how the late meals should be managed.

“The idea is to have guidelines ready for the next Ramadan,” he explained.

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