RAMADAN, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is when Muslims worldwide fast for 30 consecutive days, refraining from food and drink from before sunrise until sunset.
Katie Hopkins recently created controversy by tweeting that “Ramadan typically brings a spike in violence in Middle East. I get grumpy when I don’t eat – but I don’t blow things up. Religion of peace?”
She went on to post a picture of a cake specifically for Muslims who are fasting. Hopkins’ tweet naturally drew media attention and, given the stories of violence overseas, it’s easy to see why.
But on the contrary, I see evidence of how people of all faiths can come together to defy this view during Ramadan. Just today for example, over 100 imams signed an open letter, which drew on the principles of Ramadan to urge Muslims not to travel to Syria and instead to offer support “from the UK in a safe and responsible way” that was more aligned to the values of “Ramadan, the month of mercy”.
Islam, as expressed by British Muslims during Ramadan, can actually be a net benefit to society.
Long before a handful of young Muslims from Cardiff fled to Iraq to fight alongside extremists, local Welsh Muslims used Ramadan as a time to band together to feed the homeless in their community. It’s a scene that has been mirrored across the country for many years.
The Big Iftar, an initiative set up across the UK, strengthens community relations by encouraging and supporting mosques, places of worship and community centres to share iftar – the fast-breaking meal at sunset – with friends and neighbours from different faiths and ethnicities.
Ramadan is also a time of giving (zakat), where a compulsory proportion of a Muslim’s wealthis given to charity. Last year, a poll showed that British Muslims give more to charity than any other faith group.
JustGiving, an online charity platform, reported a spike in digital giving by British Muslims particularly during Ramadan over the last 2 years. They went on to note that “Muslims also gave large amounts of Zakat to non-religious charities such as Macmillan, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK.”
For every horror story you hear, many with only tenous links to mainstream Islam, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories of kindness, solidarity, compassion, and quiet service by British Muslims to a country that has, in my view, promoted a better society and a better Islam than was possible in the countries their parents left behind.
If that’s not a testament to what’s great about Britain and Islam, then I don’t know what is.
*Muddassar Ahmed is the CEO of Unitas Communications Ltd, a British communications company, and a member of the Government’s advisory group on Anti-Muslim Hatred