Ramzan has begun, and with it comes another reason why religion really should never be the business of the state: the Ehteram-e-Ramzan Bill. Originally an ordinance passed in 1981, our obviously quite under-occupied Senate has turned a five hundred rupee fine into a twenty-five to fifty thousand rupee one, accompanied by a three-month jail sentence. Cinemas must be shut too because going to see Boss Baby to pass the time is going to wreck your roza. So woe betide you if you have the temerity to be a non-Muslim, pregnant, nursing, on medication, old, too young, sick or just not really interested in fasting: it’s Ramzan, and the government means business.

This obsession with policing Ramzan follows on the heels of the text barrage we all received a month or two ago about posting blasphemous content online. You can go to jail for that too. You must be vigilant, and report people who blaspheme and don’t fast, because that combination is the one that’s going to destroy us all. Like the annoying, creepy neighbour in a dystopic Brave New World type film, you must skulk around spying on your friends and family to make sure nobody is digressing from following the letter of the law, and report them immediately for any trespass. It’s your civic duty, after all. Paying your tax isn’t, not defacing historical monuments isn’t, even urinating in a bathroom instead of against a wall isn’t. That doesn’t matter, because this entire country is a giant mufta, a free-for-all where you can do what you like and take what you want and never have to answer to anyone, but as long as you don’t eat in public during Ramzan it’s ok. You’ve covered your back.

You must realise how difficult it is for fasting people to be around people who aren’t fasting. It’s so hard, because it’s not like one fasts for Allah, or to have a spiritual practice that is private and pleasing to you, or to feel a sense of unity with other fasting people. We obviously are only fasting because the Senate has decided that it’s our moral duty to do so. That’s why we can’t possibly allow restaurants to be open or some poor man have lunch outside of their home, because we will be undone. We will fly to starving pieces, shattered by the sight of masticating jaws and heaving Adam’s apples as drinks slide down throats. It will ruin us, and so we must also run like good little tattletales to the police and tell them, or even better, further purify our fasting, abstinent souls by beating the living daylights out of any offender. Your fast isn’t broken if you make someone else bleed, only if you bleed yourself.

Last Ramzan I was out and about, running errands, fasting, dreaming of giant jugs of Rooh Afza, the usual. My six year old was with me, and was thirsty because it was hot and she was a little girl. At a red light, she drank from her water bottle (miraculously, I did not evaporate into a million thirsty particles and neither did our driver). Promptly, a lady in the car next to us looked straight at my daughter and wagged her finger admonishingly. Don’t drink water, small girl in a car in the middle of the afternoon. Was she joking? Maybe. Was it funny? No. It confused my child, who quite rightly didn’t know why a stranger was policing her actions when her mother, sitting next to her, didn’t have a problem.

In a society where we are so quick to invoke privacy for everything as a way of escaping responsibility for action—domestic violence is a private problem, corrupt medical practice is a private problem, public lynching is a private problem—it’s mighty amusing how Ramzan is allowed to be everyone’s business. Since when did a month of personal spiritual practice have anything to do with a state-approved enforcement of respect for it? If we were a country that valued respect for all religious practice then I’d be fully on board with Ehteram for Ramzan. If we had ehteram for Lent and Holi and Nauroze I’d say hail and well met, ehteram for Ramzan and Eid and all of it. All religion is valued and respected here and good for us. We honour the green and the white. But we don’t, and perhaps never will. So thanks, but I don’t need the state telling me how to respect Ramzan and neither should you. It’s insulting to us all, and our practice of deen, to reduce our fasting to a weapon of social control, a Damocles’ sword of piety: conform, or else. We don’t need strangers to tell us how to be Muslims, we have our Book and Sunnat to guide us, and putting people in jail for drinking water in June is most certainly no way to behave during a month that is supposed to make better people of us.