5th Fleet eases Ramadan clothing restrictions
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 1, 2016
MANAMA, Bahrain — Personnel of the U.S. 5th Fleet and their families may have to tweak their daily routines during the holy month of Ramadan but will have more liberal clothing policies than in years past.
During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is slated to begin on or about Monday, Muslims don’t eat, drink or smoke from dawn to sunset. The holiday lasts about 30 days and is slated to end about July 5.
U.S. personnel will be restricted from eating, drinking and smoking in public, including while driving, during daylight hours. However, those restrictions will not apply on base or in their private residences. Some restaurants in international hotels catering to foreigners may have certain areas where eating and drinking is allowed during the day.
“One of the myths out there is we are trying to impose religion on our servicemembers,” said U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Force and Fleet Chaplain Capt. Steven Moses. “We are not trying to impose a religious view, but we are trying to be respectful of their [host nations’] religious views. We do it because we support religious freedom, it is a local law, and we do it because we want to be good neighbors and good ambassadors.”
In the past, U.S. personnel were required to wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers or skirts below the knee.
This year, Defense Department personnel working in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, including Bahrain, and their dependents will be allowed to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts during Ramadan.
Changes to the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command liberty and clothing policies make regulations for clothing consistent year-round, with no additional rules during Ramadan. The clothing policy states civilian clothing should be neat and conservative.
“The emphasis needs to be on our conduct and our behavior, and our respect and tolerance of the Ramadan period,” said Fifth Fleet Master Chief Jim Honea. “It doesn’t need to be on changing our clothing during that time.”
DOD employees and dependents are expected to respect local laws and customs, a 5th Fleet official said, as they are wherever the military operates. Personnel could be fined or possibly detained by local authorities for eating, drinking, chewing gum or smoking in public during daylight hours.
Many restaurants will be closed during the day. Most will open after sunset, and some will also serve buffets for Iftar — the evening meal that breaks the fast. It’s customary during the holy month to say “Ramadan Kareem,” which can be translated as “Generous Ramadan” or “Blessed Ramadan.”
A man walks down ''American Alley'' in Juffair, Bahrain, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's change in clothing policy allows personnel and their families to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts all year round with no additional clothing restrictions during Ramadan.
CHRIS CHURCH/STARS AND STRIPES