Muslim students are inviting the homeless to join them in breaking their fast for Ramadan in the hope to challenge misconceptions about Islam.
Students from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are welcoming the public to their “Ramadan Tent” during Islam’s holy month. The university, in Bloomsbury, is being used as the site where iftar, the sunset meal which breaks the fast, will be served.
Omar Salha, an SOAS alumnus, says he came up with the idea because he wanted to connect with communities.
“We want this Ramadan campaign to challenge some of the misconceptions people have about Islam. But it’s also about connecting with all communities on a more humanistic level. It’s only right that as Muslims and Londoners we serve the wider London community in the spirit of Ramadan.
“Some residents from St Mungo’s saw our advert in their residence and came,” he continued, saying he was particularly keen to reach out to those ostracised by society. “They were reluctant to say who they were at the beginning, but later said they were happy that there are still people reaching out to them.”
Since starting last Wednesday, the number of participants in the fast has ranged from 80 to 120 per day. Involvement in the campaign, from both students and the public, has increased “significantly”, Salha says, with the youngest volunteer aged just 11.
“The support and gratitude from our guests, volunteers, various commentators and donors has been astounding,” Salha adds. “The purpose of Ramadan Tent is to understand and appreciate the importance of charity and remembering those less fortunate than us; to join in the practise of sharing and caring and charitable duties towards our family, our local community and our nation.
“To invite the homeless and the poor and not turn them away, even if all we can give is half a date; to say a good word, to smile, to safeguard our environment and pick up rubbish and above all else to keep peace and good relations between people.”
A spokesperson for St Mungo’s said: “The students from SOAS asked us to let our residents, staff and volunteers know that the Ramadan Tent was open and people were welcome to attend if they wished, to share and learn more. We did so and it looks like some of our residents went along.
“We value support in many ways – almost 500 volunteers generously share their time and skills with us and we welcome ways in which our residents can join in community activities.”
To find out more or volunteer all year round, visit the website.