From 26 May to 24 June, Muslims around the world are taking part in Ramadan: an annual month of fasting during daylight hours that is one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar. But although there are an estimated 2.7million Muslims in the UK, misunderstandings about Islamic culture and customs abound.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Ramadan is that because it involves fasting until sundown, it’s not really ‘about’ food – but if you think that, you couldn’t be more wrong.
A Mancunian known only as SenecaTheYounger recently posted a photo on Reddit, showing the touching Ramadan gift and note they had received from their Muslim neighbours.
The letter, which was placed on top of several dishes piled high with food, begins:
“We at No 17 are opening our fast today and want to share our food! Please join us today as we break our fast at sunset and say a prayer for the innocent lives lost in our country and all around the world.”
The neighbours also included a potted explanation of what Ramadan is all about, writing: “Muslims use this month to reflect upon their lives in light of Islamic guidance… The Arabic word for ‘fasting’ (sawm) literally means ‘to refrain’ – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but also from evil actions, thoughts and words.”
The gesture of friendship was particularly poignant in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May and the London Bridge terror attack that took on 3 June. Thirty people died in total as a result of the attacks, both of which were perpetrated by Islamist extremists.
Hundreds of prominent British Muslims have since condemned the terrorists involved in the attacks, as well as the radical ideology that drove them to violence. Some 500 imams have refused to perform the Islamic funeral prayer for the men who carried out the London Bridge attack, while Muslim leaders in Manchester organised a multi-faith vigil to honour the victims of the Arena bombing.
However, anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK has increased fivefold since the London Bridge attack, suggesting that many people are failing to draw the essential distinction between Islamist extremists and ordinary Muslims.
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SenecaTheYounger said that they wanted to highlight the fact that the vast majority of British Muslims are decent, generous friends and neighbours.
“It just happens these sickos [terrorists] are committing atrocities in the name of Islam,” they wrote. “Obviously not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Germans are Nazis & not all whites are members of the KKK.
“It’s a shame that a particular group will be shamed because of the few that have done horrendous acts,” they continued.
The food, said SenecaTheYounger, was “awesome”. “There were some onion bhajis and samosas. They also gave some sweet rice as well as this pudding type thing which was made from carrots, butter and milk.
“It was soooo good [sic],” they said. “Different from a lot of foods I’ve eaten.”
Their neighbours were “really cool”, they added. “It was nice to share their food… It’s good stuff and a heartfelt message.”
Images: iStock, reddit.com