A video released by Al-Watan news portal documents a raid conducted by plainclothed police officers on a Cairo cafe in the first week of Ramadan.
In the footage, police can be seen entering the cafe, reportedly in Midan Kitkat, Imbaba, and ordering customers to leave. One officer said the cafe was being raided because it did not have a license to operate and that people in the cafe were smoking shisha during Ramadan.
The documented raid was part of a larger operation in which police raided several cafes in Ramadan, according to the privately owned Al-Watan news portal.
It is unclear whether the raids were conducted to close establishments operating without proper licenses or functioned as a move to ensure compliance with Ramadan proscriptions.
Agouza Police Station Deputy Head Yasser Faragh is reported to have ordered the raids, during which police confiscated 177 chairs, 50 tables and 25 hookahs. Legal procedures against the cafe owners have started, according to Al-Watan.
The move was criticized on social media, with one user citing the raid as “disturbing” and another claiming there would have been a larger backlash if the raids had occured during former President Mohamed Morsi’s time in office.
The raids come days after Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta released a statement asserting that public consumption of food and drink during fasting hours is a “form of chaos and an attack against Islam’s sacredness,” rather than a matter of personal freedom.
“It is an act of openly committing a sin, which is prohibited and insulting to public decency in Muslim countries, as well as a flagrant violation against the sanctity of society and its right to respect its beliefs,” the statement asserted.
This is not the first time security raids have targeted cafes operating during Ramadan. In 2009, around 150 people were arrested for eating in public during fasting hours in the southern city of Aswan.
In the most recent incident in 2015, 25 people were arrested in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement for public consumption of food and drink, only to be released by the prosecution.
The arresting officer said he apprehended the people for “harming the personal feelings of fasting people during Ramadan.” However, the prosecutor stated that there was no legal ground to arrest those who do not participate in the fast.
Following the incident, the interior minister denied that security forces arrest those who do not adhere to the religious fast.
N.B: This article has been altered to reflect that Midan Kitkat is in Imbaba and not Agouza, as originally stated.