07/09/2013 02:17 EDT | Updated 07/09/2013 03:17 EDT

Saudi Arabia Ramadan Expulsion: Expats Warned To Respect Muslim Holiday

Thousands of Muslims gather in the grounds of the Grand Mosque, in Islam's holiest city of Mecca, for dawn (fajir) prayer on August 29, 2010, as they start their day-long fast during the holy month or Ramadan. Observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. The start of Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month in the Muslim calendar, is traditionally determined by the sighting of a new moon. AFP PHOTO/AMER HILABI (Photo credit should read AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Non-Muslim expats living in Saudi Arabia have been given a Ramadan warning: don't eat, drink or smoke in public or face deportation, Al Arabiya English reports.

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, starts on Wednesday. The Kingdom's interior ministry released a statement Tuesday, saying "Non-Muslim residents in the kingdom must not eat or drink in public during Ramadan, in respect to the holiness of Ramadan and the feelings of Muslims."

Saudi Arabia is home to almost eight million foreigners, including Asians, Arabs and Westerners, according to the Associated Press.

The interior ministry added that companies are responsible for informing their employees of the rules. Workers caught breaking them “will be subject to deterrent measures that include terminating their employment contracts and expelling them from the kingdom,” the ministry said.

Gulf News reports that the warning applies to Muslim expats as well.

“This decision applies to all people, regardless of whether they are Muslims or not, and are in line with the regulations of Saudi Arabia that strictly ban public violations of Ramadan ethics and encourage genuine considerations for the feelings of Muslims during this auspicious month,” said sources from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a government agency that guides citizens in regards to Islamic law and applications.

"Punishment could be a prison term or lashes or both while foreigners could, in addition, be deported from the kingdom," the ministry statement added.

This isn't the first time the Kingdom has issued such a warning. In 2012, it asked non-Muslims to "show consideration for feelings of Muslims" and "preserve the sacred Islamic rituals" or face expulsion, the Associated Press reported.

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