Saying you have spotted the first sliver of the moon could lead to a year in jail and a fine of about $2,000, according to proposed legislation in Pakistan.
Moon sighting is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, which has a special body, comprising religious scholars, to make sure the country’s nearly 200 million Muslims are 100 percent right in observing the religious festivities of Eid, Ramadan and the prophet’s birthday.
So spotting the baby crescent on the horizon in the evening is a big deal, and influential religious leaders have been stealing the government’s thunder at the start of the fasting month, Ramadan, by saying they’ve seen a tiny sliver a day or two before the official declaration.
The proposed law suggests the moon sighting is the property of the state and only the state body can make a formal announcement on when to start the lunar month.
Pakistan follows Saudi Arabia on major political and religious stances. In moon sightings, however, Pakistan has kept intact its independence from the kingdom, and it’s not a scientific issue.
“The implementation of the proposed law is not possible. It will be challenged in the courts,” argued Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai of Qasim Ali Khan Masjid Mosque in Peshawar. The state’s moon sighting body considers him the main culprit as he has historically led northwestern Pakistan in observance of the major religious festivals a day earlier than the rest of Pakistan.
The proposed draft has been forwarded to the federal cabinet for approval. For media outlets, it also suggests a fine of $10,000 and possible suspension if they declare the sighting of the moon before the official government announcement.