Why London’s First Ramadan Lights Celebration Has Been So Necessary For Muslims In all places

On March 21 2023, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Hamza Taouzzale, lord mayor of Westminster, stood on Coventry Avenue in central London and switched on the capital’s first ever Ramadan illuminations.

Each night all through the holy month, 30,000 colored lights have lit up this busy streetscape. “Joyful Ramadan” is spelled out in a white florid script towards a golden half-disc, supported by crescent moons, five-pointed stars and lanterns.

This marks the primary time that Ramadan has been celebrated this manner – not simply in London’s West Finish or the UK capital at massive, however in any main European metropolis. The importance of lighting up Piccadilly Circus throughout Ramadan for Muslims in Britain and world wide can’t be overstated.

Main information shops throughout the Arab and Islamic world, together with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia, have praised the initiative for the range and tolerance it alerts inside British society.

Muslims worldwide observe the holy month of Ramadan – which this 12 months ends on the night of Friday, April 21 – as a possibility to mirror on their relationship with God and strengthen their religion. It’s a time for prayer, charity and kindness in the direction of others. Fasting from dawn to sundown is seen as a non secular apply that fosters self-discipline, endurance and empathy.

In Britain, native open Iftars, the place Muslims break the day’s quick, have taken place for many years, with invites to all – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – to hitch. Ramadan has at all times been a possibility for Muslims to share their cultures with others, and for others to study Muslims and Islam.

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In my analysis of Muslims’ participation in structure and concrete tasks throughout the UK, I’ve discovered that empowering these communities to co-design and form the world they reside in, to allow them to see their cultural and non secular practices taken under consideration, is essential.

Neighborhood involvement

London’s Ramadan lights are the results of three years of group campaigning led primarily by the Ramadan Lights UK group group. Founder Aisha Desai arrange the undertaking in 2021 with a lit-up construction in north London (Henlys Nook on the North Round ring highway). She cited childhood recollections of travelling into central London to see Christmas decorations:

As a proud Muslim, I needed to deliver a few of that magic to my group.

A barely bigger construction adopted in Trafalgar Sq. in 2022.

The present set up follows the cancellation, in 2020, of proposals by the Aziz Basis to show a part of the Trocadero constructing on Piccadilly Circus right into a mosque. Westminster Metropolis Council obtained upwards of 6,000 feedback supporting the undertaking, however 2,800 objected with a excessive quantity of those reportedly racist in tone.

Lighting up a metropolis for Ramadan is a useful alternative for native governments nationwide to spice up their Muslim communities’ sense of possession over their localities. It affords Muslims better visibility and a way of inclusion in public areas.

That is vital. Analysis exhibits that Muslims within the UK really feel excluded more often than not, but additionally negatively over-exposed each time a public disaster associated to them happens. That is notably notable in cities and cities corresponding to Bradford, Burnley and Oldham within the north of England that witnessed ethnic unrest across the 12 months 2000.

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I’ve achieved in depth interviews and discipline work in Burngreave, Sheffield, the place 60% of the inhabitants identifies as Muslim. When a public house there, Ellesmere Inexperienced, was redesigned in 2013, I discovered that native Muslims weren’t being engaged about it. The individuals I spoke to expressed their frustration at Christmas lights being put up with out them being consulted. No comparable effort was made by the native authorities to rejoice Ramadan.

Christmas lights on Ellesmere Inexperienced in Sheffield, December 2022. Farouq Tahar, Creator offered

Such lack of engagement not solely erodes Muslims’ sense of belonging to British society. It additionally precludes the group from having any sense of possession over their native public areas.

In contrast, the open iftars which were organised throughout Ramadan by the Muslim group in Sheffield this 12 months, in a number of public areas across the metropolis, have created a welcoming environment for each Muslims and non-Muslims to share.

Hyperlink FM, a local people radio station, interviewed individuals who attended an iftar on the Peace Backyard. One lady mentioned: “It was open, clearly. I wouldn’t be comfy going right into a mosque, or going to one thing way more enclosed.” One other mentioned: “I feel it’s actually bringing individuals collectively, it was actually beautiful.”

And a Muslim attendee concurred:

This open iftar brings individuals of all races collectively – displaying that Sheffield is a really numerous group; displaying that our range is our energy as a metropolis.

Representatives from the Darnall Education & Sports Academy , the place one other open iftar was held, commented on a Sheffield On-line Fb publish saying:

Witnessing individuals from numerous backgrounds, each non secular and non-religious, come collectively to share a meal was really heartening. Such initiatives play an instrumental function in fostering understanding and cooperation, breaking down boundaries and dispelling misconceptions. They make social cohesion, usually perceived as a platitude, a tangible actuality.

Comparable advantages have been reaped in different cities throughout the north, together with Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester and Bradford.

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Official endorsement

Any affect this type of initiative can have, nonetheless, is minimised when not embraced by a neighborhood authority. Official endorsement, such because the mayor of London backing town’s Ramadan lights, is critical if the objective of bridging completely different communities and navigating commonalities is to be achieved.

It’s extremely probably that optimistic media protection of London’s Ramadan lights inspired different institutions to indicate their values of tolerance and inclusion by open iftars. Chelsea has change into the primary Premier League soccer membership to host an open iftar on the grounds of its stadium. Comparable open iftars are being held in different venues round in London. Additional afield, Bradford cathedral and Manchester cathedral have adopted go well with.

Analysis exhibits that Islamophobia is on the rise in British society. Information printed by the Muslim Census discovered that 92% of Muslims consider Islamophobia exists throughout the UK authorities.

In its heightened give attention to Muslim radicalisation, the latest assessment of Stop, the UK counter-terrorism technique, dangers additional exacerbating such Islamophobic sentiment. And a forthcoming impartial report, commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Native Authorities, on how the UK authorities engages with religion organisations, is reportedly set to name for stricter measures to be carried out on Muslim teams. Pundits and students alike say this can deepen the divide between Muslims and the broader group.

On this context, any initiative that alerts social inclusion throughout the public sq. – the city atmosphere that every one communities share – is essential.

Farouq Tahar, PhD Researcher in Structure, College of Sheffield

This text is republished from The Dialog underneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.

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