London Mayor talks about challenges and benefits of Ramadan
By Ahmed J Versi
London, (The Muslim News): Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, makes no bones about it that fasting from food and liquids between dawn and dusk during Ramadan is difficult and is no different for himself while going about his daily routines and responsibilities but is pleased how conversant so many non-Muslims have become about one of the main pillars of Islam.
During conversations with The Muslim News the Major of London spoke about his own personal experience of observing the basic ground rules applying to the blessed month.
“Ramadan is of course hard. One of the points of Ramadan is the sacrifice you make. It is very tough for me,” Khan related, revealing one of his challenges is doing without his daily fix during daylight hours.
“The thing I really miss during fasting is not having caffeine – coffee and sleep deprivation because once I have done suhur [pre fast meal] I find it difficult to go to sleep. So, I look tired in the month of Ramadan.”
What was “wonderful”, he believed, was how many non-Muslims now understood about Ramadan, fasting and made accommodations.
This made his scheduling simpler as people are aware he doesn’t take long lunch-breaks during the month and know when it came to sunset he would be breaking his fast.
Khan, 51, is in his second term as Mayor of the British capital after winning last year’s election postponed by the Covid pandemic. Previously, he worked a human rights lawyer before entering politics and served as Local Government and Transport Minister under Gordon Brown’s last Labour Government.
Compared with during the restrictions of the pandemic, the Mayor said that one thing Muslims were looking forward to in Ramadan this year, which started on Friday, was to enjoy it without lockdown rules that made it much harder.
“We will be doing iconic iftars this year which is a good way of not only getting together but it gives us an opportunity to explain to people about fasting. One of the great things about London is not simply that people tolerate each other but respect the celebration and embrace it.”
“Many Muslims are so desperate for this Ramadan because one can do tarawih [night] prayers and can do all the things one missed last two years. One of the great things in Ramadan is to get together not just for iftar but for other things as well.”
Khan also cited that in particular many charities had missed out in the last two years because lack of mixing and said “they desperately need us to be very charitable when it comes to our donations and generosity.”
With the removal of all restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of face masks, Muslims like people of other faiths are able once again free to attend congregational prayers and in the case of Ramadan join friends and family for iftar. But it was not about throwing all caution to the wind, with record numbers of infections still spreading.
“Positive cases have gone up but the good news is that the number of people who are vaccinated has gone up. The good news is that the number of people who are hospitalised in the ICU and dying is not going up. That shows the difference vaccination and booster is making.”
“That is why it is very important to encourage anyone who hasn’t had vaccination or booster to have it. Those who are older and vulnerable will now have the fourth vaccination. But it is still important to keep obvious things to keep safe like washing hands regularly and thoroughly and try to keep social distance, wear face masks and make sure you do regular lateral flow Covid tests when you can.”
“The virus has not gone away. What we don’t want to do is to discourage people from importance of to having good health. One of the things we know Muslims have missed is congregational prayers, mixing with people – you can do these safely,” Khan said.
He related he had been at a very busy function on the previous night. “The thing I did was to have a test in the morning and make sure I washed my hand thoroughly after shaking hands. Having taken these safeguards you can minimise the chances of passing the virus.”
The Mayor regretted that people though were being forced to now pay for Lateral Flow Test [LFT] and believed it was a false economy.
“In my view the Government has mad a big mistake charging people for the LFT to save Government money.”
“It is important for the people to be responsible themselves. The Government changed the law which meant we could not enforce wearing of the face mask in public transport. What we didn’t want to do is to create confusion.”
Khan said though he was “very excited to announce Eid in the Square is coming back. It will be a great day to celebrate Eid” at the end of Ramadan.
[Photo: Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi [Right] interviewing Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan on Zoom on 1 April]
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