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Street Iftar to fight Islamophobia

June 06, 2019
tags:#Islamophobia, #United Kingdom, #Muslims
located:United Kingdom
by:Federica Tedeschi
Thousands of people of all faiths broke the fast together during a buzzing Street Iftar event in North London on May 21.

It is the second year that the two local mosques, Finsbury Park and Muslim Welfare House hold Iftar outdoors to celebrate diversity in the borough of Islington.

'Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset’, the director of community fundraising at Muslim Aid, Zac Hussain, explained to FairPlanet.

Muslim Aid, which played a key role in organising the event along with the local mosques, is a relief and development agency set up in 1985 to support disaster-affected countries and to help deprived communities overcome poverty. The agency covers seventy countries and ‘works with a number of communities, irrespective of faith, ethnic origin or political system’.

How did the idea of a free street Iftar originate last year?

‘In 2018 we had our very first street Iftar and the whole objective was to commemorate the anniversary of the terror attack outside the Muslin Welfare House, where worshipper Makram Ali lost his life. We wanted the diverse community of Islington to come together to celebrate solidarity and cohesion by sharing Iftar,’ stressed Mr Hussain, interviewed by FairPlanet before the event officially started.

The director recalled the attack which occurred during Ramadan 2017, when Darren Osborne drove a van into pedestrians near the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, killing one worshipper and injuring eleven others. Last year he was found guilty of terrorism-related offences and attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Has Muslim Aid worked closely with other organisations to make the event happen?

‘We work with of a whole host of different community organisations including some local faith groups, because we want to keep us as open, inclusive and diverse as possible and it is important to get everybody involved,’ said Mr Hussain.

What is this year’s specific message?

‘Very recently there have been several terrorist attacks around the world, from the mosque shootings in New Zealand, to the Sri Lankan church bombing, not to mention the San Diego shooting, all targeting places of worship. Our goal is for the global community to come together and being able to tackle prejudice against all religions, because we are not going to give in to hatred or division,’ he added.

Zac Hussein explained to FairPlanet how the first street Iftar attracted over 2,000 people ‘of all different faiths and none’, showing unity by sharing ‘a meal, conversation and community spirit’.

Muslims make up the second-largest religious group in England and Wales, according to 2011 data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

The street Iftar’s aim to challenge Islamophobia in the UK and beyond, is therefore crucial. And Muslim Aid’s mission does not end there, as they aim to fight prejudice against all religions.

A number of parliamentarians, faith and community leaders, as well as the daughter of late Makram Ali, Ms Ruzinau Akhtar, joined the event this year (and in 2018) to highlight the many ways intolerance is manifesting in our society. Speeches went on until sunset to remind people that sharing experiences within communities is the best way to honour peace and unity and to tackle religious prejudice.

‘An attack on anyone’s place of worship, being a synagogue, a temple or a mosque is actually an attack on all of us,’ said the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

‘Don’t take for granted that there will always be that sense of coming together as there are people in our world and society who want to divide us,’ he added.

Among many speakers, also Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, a chairman of the Arab-Jewish Forum, who said:

‘When the Jewish communities left Germany there was a big vacuum because an important aspect of that society wasn’t there. The Muslim community is part and parcel of what British society is today. (…)

‘We don’t need to debate what Islamophobia is, we are witnesses, sadly, to what it is’.

Over 100 Muslim Aid volunteers from all walks of life helped organising the event; a free street Iftar welcoming thousands of people is a financially ambitious experience.

‘The event has been funded by our donors. Many donations come from citizens, but we also have specific funders that will donate large amounts of money the moment we let them know we're organising something for the wider community,’ explained Zac Hussain.

He also added that we should all call the event ‘national street Iftar’: last year it only took place in Finsbury Park, which is currently the second location in a long list of street Iftars happening during Ramadan 2019 up and down the country.

Talking about the future, Mr Hussain stressed: ‘I can only see this growing year on year’.

Article written by:
Federica Tedeschi
United Kingdom
Embed from Getty Images
It is the second year that the two local mosques, Finsbury Park and Muslim Welfare House hold the outdoor Iftar to celebrate diversity in the borough of Islington.
Embed from Getty Images
'Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset.’
Embed from Getty Images
"We want the diverse community of Islington to come together to celebrate solidarity and cohesion by sharing Iftar."
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