Celebrating Ramadan during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many challenges, including the question about how Muslims can still join together, observe Ramadan, and break the fast (Iftar) whilst still exercising social distancing.

Being apart at this time – especially from family and loved ones – seems alien to our values, but it gives us the opportunity to celebrate together in a different way.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims do not eat or drink during the hours of daylight. It is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, undertaking good deeds and spending time with family and friends. This year Ramadan will begin on the evening of Thursday 23rdApril.

Being apart at this time – especially from family and loved ones – seems alien to our values, but it gives us the opportunity to celebrate together in a different way.

Just like other churches, mosques will no longer be holding gatherings. A month ago, the Muslim Council of Britain called for the suspension of all congregational activities at UK mosques and Islamic centres.

In a press release, Secretary General Harun Khan said: “We all have a public duty to protect one another from harm, and it is evident the most effective way to do this now is to avoid social contact as much as possible. This includes all walks of life, whether social, work or the mosque.”

April is one of the holiest months of the year on many religious calendars, including the Passover, Easter and Vaishaki. This year, however, traditional gatherings have been pushed online with observers participating in services and celebrations remotely.

One of my challenges as a councillor and community leader is making sure that residents can break their fast together whilst being apart. For the younger generation and those who are fortunate enough to have access to mobile phones and the internet, they can communicate with friends and family via FaceTime or WhatsApp video.

For those who are not digitally inclusive, I have been teaching them how to use Zoom, ensuring that they are not left out. It is also essential to make sure that people are safe when they fast during COVID-19 and to direct them to appropriate health professionals for advice and assistance.

From a personal perspective, my husband, three children and I are preparing for an unusual Ramadan. We have, for example, been consuming health foods to boost our immune systems, even though classic Ramadan food is carb-heavy.

I am also blessed with the support of non-Muslims, like Roderick Lynch, who will break a fast with me by using Zoom. Cllr Anton Georgiou, who represents a ward that is home to large Hindu and Muslim communities, will keep the first fast with me next week.

The month of Ramadan always brings challenges and rewards, but this year will enable us to find more creative ways of helping others whilst maintaining social distance.

As Liberal Democrats we can all come together in our communities to help the vulnerable, the needy, the lonely and anyone who needs physical or emotional support.

We need to promote a society that works cohesively to make us more resilient to challenges and change, where we take care of one another altruistically and ensure that no one is left behind.