As-salam-alaykum and Ramadan Mubarak to all!
Ramadan is a month of fasting, charity, and blessing. It is an opportunity to make ourselves better, our family stronger and serve society.
Sadly, due to Covid-19, Ramadan once again looks very different this year, and whilst we can’t visit the Mosque for Taraweeh prayers or break fast with our friends and family in person, we can stay connected virtually!
I have had the immense privilege of hosting several virtual iftars this month, bringing together community members, religious leaders, and labour members.
My community iftar highlighted the importance of religious fasting in different faiths. Speakers included the Lord Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Dr David Walker, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Principal Rabbi, Manchester Reform Synagogue and Parkash Singh from the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Gurdwara Temple.
From lent, to Yom Kippur, religious fasting is a way to regain and refocus spiritually. Personally, fasting this month allows me to focus on the plight of those who involuntarily go without food or water throughout the year. It reminds me to be grateful for all the things I have and is an opportunity to give back.
As Parliamentary Chair of the Labour Muslim Network, I was honoured to host our annual iftar, which brings together our Labour leadership with the thousands of Muslim members around the country to celebrate and commemorate one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar. Speakers included Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, London Mayoral Candidate, Sadiq Khan, Scottish Labour Leader, Anas Sarwar and Labour colleagues. It was a fun-filled event and a joy to have iftar with so many colleagues and friends from the Labour movement.
I also co-hosted the Open Iftar, organised by the Ramadan Tent Project, with my good friend and colleague, Andy Burnham. We looked at the importance of community cohesion and the community’s response to the pandemic in Manchester.
This pandemic has certainly shown us the scale of inequality in Manchester and beyond, and I would like to thank local organisations such as Humans MCR foodbank for providing a lifeline to those in need.
This goes to the heart of Islamic teaching, last year alone Muslims in the UK donated more than £150 million to charity! For me, that is the face of Islam, a religion of giving and generosity.
Most of all, I would like to honour those who are working on the front line. Your humility, kindness and strength are greatly appreciated.
I look forward to joining more virtual iftars this month, including the APPG British Muslims, “Big Virtual Iftar”, and I hope I can host some of these amazing events in person next year.
Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the UK, Ramadan is a reminder of the extraordinary contributions made by our British Muslim community. And today, I want to extend my best wishes to our Muslim members and indeed the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. Ramadan Kareem.