The town I live in has a sizeable Muslim population (and a fabby brand-new mosque, partly financed by the local authority, oooh) largely of north African heritage. Ramadan isn't that noticeable here, but I saw an incident yesterday that reminded me of the some of the things that used to happen in my Reading days. Ramadan being in summer this year the days are very long, which makes it hard for the people to bear. The temperature has been about 28 degrees in the afternoons in recent days, and muggy. I do not think it is healthy to go without water for that long, but still... I went for apero (post-work drinks, a Friday tradition, French people often have a drink with their neighbours early on a Friday evening) with a colleague and partner at their place, and left there in time to watch Plus Belle La Vie at home, obviously (France 3, 2010 weekdays). I popped into our local supermarket on the way home, just before they closed, the sun was not far off setting, and a significant number of the customers were, apparently, Muslim, and were buying last-minute things before going home to eat and drink. One middle-aged man, bespectacled and respectable-looking, was rather slow putting his shopping away, and the woman behind him got irascible. This happens often when the blood sugar is low from fasting. The woman shouted at the man that he wasn't doing Ramadan properly, he should have done his shopping earlier and shouldn't be holding everyone up. Clearly offended, the man drew himself up and said that he was not observing Ramadan, that Ramadan was nothing to do with him, and that the woman should look to her own preparations for the feast, which she was clearly not doing properly. The man might have been a Coptic Egyptian for all I know, or a secular Algerian, or even a Catholic Frenchman. The woman was even more offended, and shrieked back at the man that she was Jewish, and how dare he, etc etc, all to an audience of hugely entertained teenagers getting their eighty-cent cans of beer to start their Friday night. The cashier was blonde, her name badge said "Lea", and she kept her eyes down, bored, waiting for it to be over. The cashier at the next till was dark, and her name badge said "Fatma", and she looked uncomfortable. I noticed her hands were shaking slightly.
And the moral of this is, probably, go out and see what people do and how they behave, don't stay at home in front of your TV and decide what people are like. It's good to have assumptions exploded, though not always easy.