By Ajmal Haniftahmas
The Netherlands has long been known as the European multicultural and liberal gateway. As Europe’s growing immigrant populations spark debate over culture, religion and nationalism, so too does it inspire multiculturalism and understanding. Ramadan is the largest challenge of the year for Muslim athletes living in non-Muslim nations as they must cope with being match-fit while abstaining from rehydrating and eating during the day.
I am a football referee and to keep up with the matches I must be in top shape. I train every week, and Ramadan is in itself also a form of training. This month gives me the strength I need to do well in life, except it is up to me to follow the ‘training’ properly. My family and I came to Holland after fleeing Afghanistan in 1998, I was ten. The biggest difference I can remember is that back home fasting in Afghanistan is as common and prevalent as Christmas is in the West. Whether you are on the bus, visiting someone or just walking outside, everyone around you is participating in the fast. This actually makes it easier because you are not constantly reminded of it. Having everyone around you eat and drink all the time is such a temptation, which makes it much harder for me, but it also sharpens your resolve and strengthens you mentally.
There are so many Muslims here in Holland that people are generally aware of Ramadan. With my work and schooling, the Dutch are very respectful about the whole thing. The fact that I am fasting is taken into consideration and it shows they respect us. To me Ramadan is not that time of year where you simply cannot eat or drink during the day. Ramadan is the engine that drives you through the next 11 months, that gives you the will-power to resist temptations and succeed throughout the rest of the year.